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Barlow, Sir Thomas (1845-1945)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 PP/BAR
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Barlow, Sir Thomas (1845-1945)
Date(s): 1794-1981
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 31 boxes, 3 loose volumes, 8 oversize items
Name of creator(s): Barlow | Sir | Thomas | 1845-1945 | Baronet | physician
Barlow | Lady | Ada Helen | 1843-1928
Barlow | Helen Alice Dorothy | 1887-1975
Barlow | Andrew Dalmahoy | b.1916 | physician
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Thomas Barlow was born on 4 September 1845 at Brantwood Fold, Edgworth, near Bolton, Lancashire, the eldest son of James Barlow (1821-1887), mill-owner, and his wife Alice née Barnes (d. 1888). He attended local schools and in 1863 went to Owen's College Manchester to read natural science, graduating BSc. (London) in 1867. He went up to University College London to study medicine in 1868, and on qualifying in 1870 was appointed house physician to Sir William Jenner at University College Hospital. He was awarded his MB and BS in November 1873 (MD 1874). In April 1874 he was appointed medical registrar at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, which was to be the principal locus of Barlow's research activities. He later served successively as assistant physician and full physician at Great Ormond Street until 1899. He also held the posts of assistant physician at Charing Cross Hospital (1875 -77) and at the London Hospital (1877-80), and assistant physician and later full physician at University College Hospital from 1880 to 1910. From 1895 to 1907 Barlow held the Holme chair of clinical medicine.

Barlow made his name as a specialist in childhood diseases in the 1870s and '80s; he is above all associated with the isolation of infantile scurvy - so-called 'Barlow's disease' - as a disease distinct from rickets, with which it was routinely confused prior to the 1880s. In 1883 he published his first findings on infantile scurvy in a paper entitled 'On cases described as "acute rickets" ... the scurvy being an essential and the rickets a variable element', in Medico-Chirurgical Transactions,1883, 66: 199-220. He greatly expanded the number of cases investigated for his Bradshaw lecture of 1894, entitled 'Infantile scurvy and its relation to rickets'. Barlow also made significant research contributions in the areas of meningitis and rheumatic illness in children. Later he turned his attention to neurological illnesses such as Raynaud's disease and erythromelalgia.

Barlow enjoyed a successful private practice, based first in Montague Street, Bloomsbury, and from 1887 at number 10, Wimpole Street. His patients eventually included members of the highest social circles, such as the dukes of Grafton and Rutland, lords Selborne and Salisbury, and Randall Davidson, archbishop of Canterbury. In 1896 he was appointed physician to the royal household, and spent part of September 1897 deputising for Sir James Reid at Balmoral; from 1899 to 1901 he was physician-extraordinary to Queen Victoria, being present at her deathbed. He continued to hold appointments at court under Edward VII and George V. In 1901 he was created a baronet and later the same year appointed KCVO. In 1902 Barlow was one of the royal doctors who successfully piloted Edward VII though his appendectomy.

Barlow's was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1909, and served as President of the Royal College of Physicians from 1910 to 1914; in August 1913 he presided at the 17th International Medical Congress in London.

In December 1880 Barlow married Ada Helen Dalmahoy, a former ward sister at Great Ormond Street Hospital; they had three sons and two daughters, the younger of whom died in infancy. The eldest son was Sir (James) Alan Noel Barlow (1881-1968), the second was Sir Thomas Dalmahoy Barlow (1883-1964); the third, Patrick Basil Barlow ( 1884-1917), died on the Western Front.

Barlow was brought up as a Methodist, and was a lifelong teetotaller. From 1923 to 1930 he was President of the National Temperance League. In retirement he spent more time at his country home, Boswells, near Wendover in Buckinghamshire. He continued to travel, at home and abroad, accompanied by his surviving daughter, Helen, who never married. Barlow died at no 10 Wimpole Street on 12 January 1945, aged 99.


Scope and content/abstract:

Although Barlow is best known for his original researches on infantile scurvy, there is very little material relating to that subject in the collection. There are manuscript drafts of his address to the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh and his Bradshaw Lecture on infantile scurvy (BAR/E1-2), but the bulk of the clinical and scientific component of the papers relates to other matters, particularly Raynaud's disease and erythromelalgia, diseases to which Barlow turned his attention later in his career.

Among Barlow's clinical papers is a notebook recording minutes of a 'Clinical Club', 1875-77 (BAR/D.2), whose members included, apart from Barlow himself, Sidney Coupland, Rickman Godlee, William Smith Greenfield, Robert Parker, and William Allen Sturge.

Most of Barlow's private patients' records have not survived, though there is an index to his private patients' books, covering the years 1876-1918 (BAR/F.1).

Scientific and clinical matters are also discussed in Barlow's correspondence, but again this is relatively thin for the period when he was active in research. Barlow's non-family correspondence has clearly been heavily weeded: there are few letters from patients, with the exception of some prominent individuals, such as Mary Curzon, wife of Lord Curzon, Randall Davidson, archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Salisbury and Lord Selborne, and in general it seems that while letters from important or well-known figures have survived those from individuals deemed less important have been discarded. Significant numbers of letters remain however from several of Barlow's regular correspondents, such as the poet, Robert Bridges, Lord Bryce, and William Page Roberts, dean of Salisbury, as well as medical figures like Sir William Jenner and Sir James Reid.

Barlow's personal papers and family correspondence have survived in bulk and form a rich source of material for both his private and family life, and his public career. There are travel journals and sketchbooks from his earlier years, mainly documenting visits to the Continent, 1869-83; correspondence with his parents, brother, wife and children, 1852-1940, including letters written by Barlow from Balmoral, where he served as royal physician intermittently between 1897 and 1899, an eye-witness account of the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 (BAR/B.2/4), and letters and telegrams from court in 1902 during the crisis of Edward VII's appendectomy; and commonplace and scrapbooks compiled in retirement, 1920-37. Also from this period are various temperance notes and addresses.

The archive also comprises letters and papers of Barlow's parents, 1842-87; of Barlow's wife, Ada, including letters from her brother and sisters in India, 1858-80, and to her daughter Helen studying in Darmstadt, Germany, 1905-6; of Barlow's sons, Alan, Thomas and Basil, including letters from the last-named while serving on the Western Front, 1916-17; and notably of his daughter Helen, including correspondence with Archbishop and Mrs (later Lady) Davidson, 1910-35, and letters from Sir John Rose Bradford and his wife while serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps in France, 1914-19. Helen Barlow's papers also include records of three charities with which she was associated: the University College Hospital Ladies Association, 1900-50, the Southwark Boys Aid Association, 1914-36, and the Quinn Square [Southwark] Social Centre Society, c. 1935-1951. Finally there is a handful of letters to Andrew Barlow, Sir Thomas's grandson, mainly relating to articles he wrote about his grandfather, 1955-81.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, with a few letters in German and French.

System of arrangement:

The bulk of the collection concerns Sir Thomas Barlow, and his papers are arranged in sections as follows: A Journals and diaries, 1862-90; B. Family correspondence, 1852-1940; C. Professional and other correspondence, 1794-1944; D. Clinical records, 1870-c. 1908; E. Scientific papers and publications, 1876-c.1908; F. Records of private patients, 1876-1930; G. Addresses and speeches, 1897-1930; H. Historical research, 1916-19; J. Temperance notes, papers and addresses, 1902-32; K. Testimonials, 1874-83; L. Other personal and family papers, 1865-1945; M. Commonplace and scrapbooks, 1920-37; N. Certificates, 1863-1918; P. Photographs and portraits, c.1888-c.1940; Q. Press cuttings, 1866-1938; R. Royal ephemera, 1887-1911; S. Printed programmes, seating plans and menus, 1892-1928; T. Miscellany, c.1862-1933. Papers of other members of the family follow: U. Parents and others, 1842-1917; V. Ada Barlow, 1831-1923; W. Alan Barlow, c.1887-1945; X. Thomas D Barlow, 1900-47; Y. Basil Barlow, 1899-1917; Z. Helen Barlow, 1888-1975; and AA. Andrew Barlow, 1955-81.

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Catalogue and index by Richard Aspin, 1997, available in the Wellcome Library and via the National Register of Archives.

Archival Information

Archival history:

At Barlow's death the family papers were inherited by Helen Barlow; these comprised not only her father's papers, but those of her mother, and some letters received by her paternal grandparents and brothers. Helen's own papers continued to accumulate after 1945 and eventually formed a considerable part of the family archive; indeed the entire collection has some claim to be considered as the papers of Helen Barlow, especially as she worked on them after 1945, filing, enveloping and annotating documents. The Barlow papers have undergone a number of depredations over time. Apart from the natural wastage suffered by most collections of private papers, including weeding by Barlow himself, there have been various alienations of material. It is thought that most of Barlow's private patients' case books, of which only one now survives, were given for wartime paper salvage. In addition, Helen Barlow gave away items from her father's papers after his death, including clinical records to Great Ormond Street Hospital and various letters from distinguished physicians to the Royal College of Physicians.

Immediate source of acquisition:

At some time before her death in 1975, Helen Barlow presented the bulk of her father's surviving professional correspondence and other papers to the Wellcome Institute. The Barlow family correspondence and papers, and other scientific and clinical material remained at 10 Wimpole Street until 1991, when these papers were deposited in the Wellcome Institute by Dr Andrew Barlow, Sir Thomas's grandson and successor in the medical profession. In 1992 this accession was converted into a gift.

Allied Materials

Related material:

There are a few letters by Sir Thomas Barlow in other collections in the Wellcome Library, including the Autograph Letters collection, and the papers of Sir Edward Sharpey-Schafer (PP/ESS).

Outside the Wellcome Library the largest collection of related material is in the archives of the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, including Barlow's case notes, 1885-99, and records of a Clinical Club, of which Barlow was a member, 1875-96. University College London archives department holds notes of lectures by Barlow taken by a student, Arthur Ricketts, 1896-99. Records of Barlow's Fellowship and Presidency of the Royal College of Physicians are in the archives of that institution. Significant quantities of further letters by Barlow can be found in the Bodleian Library (see Summary catalogue of post-medieval Western Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, 3 vols., 1991), British Library (Cecil of Chelwood papers), Lambeth Palace Library (Benson papers, Davidson papers, Bell papers), and Royal College of Physicians Library, which also holds a collection of letters received by him.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Richard Aspin, 'The papers of Sir Thomas Barlow', Medical History, 37 (1993): 333-340.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Description compiled by Richard Aspin, based on the typescript catalogue of the collection by the same.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
June 2001

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