Skip to main content

Historic Hospital Admission Records Project

Sir Archibald Edward Garrod (1857–1936)

Archibald Garrod was born in London in 1857. He was well placed to follow a career in medicine, his father being Sir Alfred Baring Garrod, physician to King's College Hospital and an authority on diseases of the joints. Garrod was educated at Marlborough College, and at Oxford, where he obtained a first class in natural science in 1880. He received his medical training in London at St Bartholomew's Hospital, where he qualified.

After a period in Vienna, Garrod joined the staff at St Bartholomew's, becoming casualty physician in 1888 and assistant physician in 1903. He also joined the visiting staff of the West London Hospital and the Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Disease. He was appointed physician at the Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond street in 1899, after time on the visiting staff. In 1912, he was promoted to the post of full physician at Bart’s, and soon after became embroiled in the war effort, working first in London and then in Malta, where he was consulting physician to the Mediterranean forces until 1919. His war services earned him a CMG in 1916 and KCMG in 1918.

On his return Garrod became the first director of a new medical unit at Bart’s, but less than a year later, in 1920, he was nominated Regius Professor of medicine at Oxford in succession to Sir William Osler.

Although he regarded himself first and foremost as a physician, many of Garrod’s interests lay in the field of biochemistry, and in particular in inborn metabolic errors which led to disease. His legacy is as much concerned with the development of human genetics as with medicine.

Garrod received many distinctions in his life, including election as a fellow of the Royal Society, of which he was vice-president from 1926 to 1928.

Dr John Poynton recorded his memories of Sir Archibald Garrod:

‘He was an F. R. S. and a pioneer of bio-chemistry in England. A very charming personality with only a faint aura of St. Bart’s, whose absolute superiority as human beings enraged almost everyone from other hospitals. He wrote a pioneer work on rheumatism in 1900, which as was to be expected was too much ahead for this country. As a physician, he was too learned to be confident, and was really happy with a test-tube and some rare congenital deviation from normal metabolism. His life was greatly saddened by the loss of three sons in the war. He became Regius Professor at Oxford and Director of Research at St. Bart’s, but no man can endure the calamities demanded of him and keep quite the same vitality. He represented all that was best in English medicine. He was of medium height, strong build with kindly eyes and a fine head. In manner quiet, courteous and a little reserved, with a fine judgment of good work in others. He was universally respected and liked, but too gentle and honest to demand attention.