Professor James William Edington M.D., D.P.H.. Professor Of Bacteriology, University Of Sheffield

Whilst I was updating the pages on the University of Sheffield's only holder of the Victoria Cross, the late Captain William Barnsley Allen (VC, DSO, MC & Bar)(1892 - 1933) , I came across the following newspaper report from The Manchester Guardian dated 10th April 1939

An obituary in the British Medical Journal, gives a fuller appreciation of his contribution to both the University in particular, and the people of Sheffield in general

"Edington was born in Dowlaw Berwickshire, and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where after a distinguished career as a student, he graduated M.B., ChB.,with honours in 1913 and gained his M.D. with honours in 1920. Soon after qualification he served in the was as a captain in the R.A.M.C., being awarded the Croix de Guerre for his services in Salonika. From there he was invalided home and became attached to the Cantebury District Laboratory and later took charge of the Shorncliffe District Laboratory. In 1919, after demobilisation, he went to Bradford as an assistant bacteriologist, and from there he came to Sheffield in 1921 to take charge of the University Public Health Laboratory under the direction of the late Professor J. S. C. Douglas. In the course of a few years the service grew to very large proportions and Edington worked increasingly in organising his  department so that it could deal with the ever-increasing volume of work coming from the Sheffield City hospitals and from the hospitals of the surrounding districts. In 1931 a Chair of Bacteriology was created in the University of Sheffield, and Edington was the natural
choice for this appointment; he was also appointed honorary bacteriologist to the Royal Infirmary, Royal Hospital, the Jessop Hospital for Women, and the Children's Hospital.
Responsibilities weighed lightly on his shoulders and he was always happy in his work. As a teacher his relation to his students was one of great friendliness and help; despite lameness, he entered into many student activities and was a keen follower of the fortunes of the Rugby football and fencing clubs. In his laboratory he set a very high standard, and it was a great pleasure and an education in itself to be associated with him. His
enthusiasm for his job was reflected in his research work, of which much was related to problems of public health.
An accident in his youth aggravated by his war service had resulted in an ankylosed ankle-joint due to tuberculous infection. Even this disability Edington turned to profit, for during a period spent at a sanatorium in Switzerland in 1925 he studied in himself the effects of sunlight upon cutaneous and subcutaneous temperature variations; indeed, the study of tuberculosis was his main interest, and apart from many publications on this subject he had been engaged for more than ten years in the synthesis of a very large series of chemotherapeutic agents, some of which gave very encouraging results. But he was not satisfied with anything but the best, and therefore being cut off so prematurely no written account of this work
Not the least of Edington's qualities was his capacity for friendship. In his laboratories, as elsewhere, he had a friendly word for everyone and radiated great charm of manner. His genius for understanding his friends' difficulties made him generous in his help, and nothing gave him greater pleasure than the realization that he had been able to help others. His untimely death is a great loss to his profession, and our deepest sympathy is extended to his two sons in their tragic loss."

James served with Royal Army Medical Corps, the same regiment as William Allen - I wonder if they knew one another?. And there can be very few holders of the Croix de Guerre that have been employed by the University of Sheffield. Sadly I have been unable to locate any acknowledgement of this achievement by the University - in 2005, the University published a lavish Centenary History, "Steel City Scholars", but there was just a very brief mention of the "head on car crash" and none of about the award of the Croix de Guerre.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 12th April 1939 gave a full details of the funeral that took place at Sheffield's Abbey Lane Cemetery



The Sheffield History Forum

J. W. Edington, M.D., D.P.H.. Professor Of Bacteriology, University Of Sheffield, by C. G. P. 1939 BMJ Publishing Group.

The Manchester Guardian dated 25th June 1959

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 12th April 1939

Return To Main Homepage

This page was last updated on 26/07/10 12:40