Charles Richard Box: physician, pathologist, and infectious disease pioneer

Arpan K. Banerjee
Solihull, UK

 

Photograph of Charles Richard Box
Charles Richard Box by Lafayette. Half-plate nitrate negative. 30 August 1928. NPG x42689. Reproduced with Permission from National Portrait Gallery, London. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

The name Charles Richard Box is perhaps not as well-known as some of the medical contemporaries of his time. He had a brilliant career in medicine at his alma mater but his nature and personality did not result in popularity and fame in society circles. As Alex Munthe, the author of The Story of San Michele wrote, “Success in medicine is often not related to knowledge but is due to a magic gift which is not granted to all.”

Charles Box was born on March 3, 1866, and educated at one of London’s top schools, Dulwich College,1,2,3 and went into business for a short while before medicine became his calling. He entered St. Thomas’s Hospital Medical School in 1886, at a new site at Lambeth where it had moved in the 1870s and still remains.4 In 1889 he proceeded to a BSC degree, and having walked the wards of the hospital as a clinical student for three years he sat the London MBBS exams in 1892 to qualify as a doctor. By all accounts, he was a brilliant student and his academic prowess continued unabated throughout his career. Within two years of graduation he passed the exams to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1906, having passed the examination for membership in 1897. He served as a medical registrar in 1894 (there was only one post) and a junior physician at St. Thomas’s hospital from 1900, the Western Fever Hospital, and was also put in charge of the pediatric department at St. Thomas’s.

In addition to his duties as a physician, Box was involved with the morbid anatomy, or pathology department for over twenty years and performed numerous post-mortem examinations. He wrote a manual on post-mortems in 1910,5 which went to a second edition in 1919. His other important book was Clinical Applied Anatomy6 published in 1906, which ran to 471 pages and was co-written with W. McAdam Eccles, who was later a distinguished and industrious surgeon and polymath from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London.

Box married in 1905 and had a house in the fashionable Regent’s Park, London. He served as both lecturer in medicine and applied anatomy at the medical school and rose up the ranks to serve as sub-dean. He was regarded as a brilliant diagnostician with an encyclopedic knowledge of medicine, surgery, and the current literature and wrote authoritatively on a wide variety of topics. He was an examiner of students at London and Birmingham Universities.

During the First World War he served as a Major at the 5th London General Hospital. He served as a Censor for the Royal College of Physicians of London and gave the Lumleian Lectures at the college in 1933 based on his lifetime’s work with fevers, entitled Complications of the Specific Fevers. In 1926 he had published a paper in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine on “Discussion on the modern control of infectious diseases.”7

In 1935 he published a paper on typhoid fever in the British Medical Journal8 and in 1937 followed this up with his article on “The London Fever Hospital”9 where he had spent a large part of his working life. He continued working there after his retirement from St. Thomas’s Hospital in 1926. His expertise in this field resulted in him writing the chapter on fevers in Price’s Textbook of the Practice of Medicine, one of the standard medical reference works of its time.

Box died on April 3, 1951. He left money in his will to his beloved alma mater—a fund intended to help students and also used to fund a medical prize for students awarded in his honor on the basis of a competitive examination.

 

References

  1. Brown G H Box C R Royal College of Physicians, Lives of the Fellows, Munk’s Roll, Vol. IV
  2. Box, Charles Richard (1866–1951)”. Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows, Royal College of Surgeons of England.
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Richard_Box
  4. Mc Innes E. M St Thomas’s Hospital 1963 Allen and Unwin
  5. Box C R Post-mortem manual, a handbook of morbid anatomy and post-mortem technique. London: Churchill. 1910. 2nd . 1919.
  6. Box C R and W. McAdam Eccles: Clinical applied anatomy. London: Churchill. 1906
  7. Box, C. R. . Discussion on the Modern Control of Infectious Diseases. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. 1926 19 (Med Sect): 19. PMC 1948368. PMID 19985040.
  8. Box, C. R. . Typhoid Fever: Its Chief Complications. British Medical Journal. 1935 1 (3871): 538–540.
  9. Box, C. R.; Broadbent, J. F.; Willcox, W. H.; Lakin, C. E.; Bryan, C. W.; Neilson, D. F.; Hunt, T.; Smith, K. S. The London Fever Hospital. British Medical Journal. 1937 2 (3995): 246.

 


 

ARPAN K. BANERJEE, MBBS (LOND), FRCP, FRCR, FBIR, qualified in medicine at St. Thomas’s Hospital Medical School. London. He was a consultant radiologist in Birmingham from 1995-2019. He served on the scientific committee of the Royal College of Radiologists 2012-2016. He was Chairman of the British Society for the History of Radiology from 2012-2017. He is the Treasurer of ISHRAD and adviser to radiopaedia. He is the author/co-author of numerous papers and articles on a variety of clinical medical, radiological, and medical historical topics and seven books including Classic Papers in Modern Diagnostic Radiology 2005 and “The History of Radiology” OUP 2013.

 

Summer 2020  |  Sections  |  Physicians of Note