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WILSON, Henry Leonard (1897-1968)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0113 MS-WILSH
Held at: Royal College of Physicians
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Full title: WILSON, Henry Leonard (1897-1968)
Date(s): 1930-1968
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 archival box
Name of creator(s): Wilson | Henry Leonard | 1897-1968 | psychiatrist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Henry Leonard Wilson was born at Sheffield on 17 May 1897, the only child of Cecil Henry Wilson, Labour MP, JP, and gold and silver refiner of Sheffield. The family was Congregationalist, and Wilson was sent to a Quaker school at Stramongate, Kendal. He left school in 1914 to work in a bank and train for the family business. However, conscription began and, as a conscientious objector, he joined the Friends' Ambulance Unit. At the end of the War he entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, to study medicine. It was whilst a student that he became a member of the Society of Friends. During his studies at Cambridge and St Bartholomew's Hospital (St Barts), where he was house physician, he won several prizes. He qualified with the conjoint diploma in 1925. Also in 1925 he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians.

After graduating MB BChir in 1927, he became clinical assistant at the Bethlem Royal Hospital, and registrar and resident medical officer at Maida Vale Hospital. From 1929-31 he was senior assistant physician at the Retreat in York. In 1931 he returned to London and became medical superintendent at Bowden House, Harrow, under the psychologist Hugh Crichton-Miller, and physician to the Institute of Medical Psychology. In 1932 he graduated MD, and in the following year was appointed clinical assistant in psychological medicine at St Barts.

In 1936 Wilson joined the Department of Neurology at the London Hospital, as clinical assistant to the neurologists George Riddoch and Walter Russell Brain. During the Blitz of the Second World War, 1940, he displayed `highly original qualities' establishing a service for psychiatric casualties at the Hospital (Munk's Roll, 1982, p.468). He was a pioneer in the field of psychiatry, and his strength lay in his clinical skills. Wilson was instrumental in forming the Department of Neurology and Psychiatry in 1942, and joined the consulting staff as physician. He held this position for twenty years, inaugurating a modern psychiatric service at the Hospital. In 1943 Wilson became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

Wilson made many contributions to medical journals including The Lancet, the British Medical Journal, The Practitioner, the London Hospital Gazette, and various specialised psychiatric journals. He was said to be `expert in the psychiatric analysis of historical and literary characters' (ibid).

Wilson had been a member of the Medical Art Society since its early years, and was an accomplished water-colourist. In 1947 he became the Society's honorary secretary, and in 1951 its vice-president, serving in this office until his death. Wilson was an examiner for the Royal College of Physicians for 1951-55, and 1959-62. In 1952 he was vice-president of the Section of Psychiatry at the Annual Meeting of the British Medical Association.

In 1961, on Brain's retirement, Wilson became head of the Department of Neurology and Psychiatry. He retired from the London Hospital in 1962, and moved from London to Cambridge. He was president of the Section of Psychiatry of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1962-63.

He had married in 1927 Ruth Taylor of Letchworth, with whom he had two sons and one daughter. He suffered much ill health throughout his life, for prolonged periods in later years. Wilson died in the London Hospital on 8 April 1968, at the age of 70.


Scope and content/abstract:

Henry Leonard Wilson's papers, 1930-1968, relate to his unpublished paper on the blindness of the poet John Milton, and consist of correspondence relating to the paper, drafts of the paper, notes on Milton, articles by others on Milton, and correspondence between Ruth Wilson, Wilson's widow, and the Royal College of Physicians library about the posthumous publication of the paper.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

All requests should be referred to the Archivist

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated by Mrs Ruth Wilson, Wilson's widow, [August] 1968

Allied Materials

Related material:

There is also correspondence of Wilson's amongst the College's Autographed Letters Collection (ALS).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians of London, continued to 1975, Vol. VI, Gordon Wolstenholme (ed.) (Oxford, 1982) [Munk's Roll, 1982, pp.467-69]; `Obituary Notices - H.L. Wilson', British Medical Journal, Vol. II, [BMJ, 1968, pp.181-82]; `Obituary - Henry Wilson', The Lancet, Vol. II, pp.870.
Compiled by Katharine Martin

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:
Compiled September 2003

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