Bruton's mother was evacuated to Leicestershire and gave birth to him in 1941 at Lockington Hall, a castle that had been converted into a maternity hospital, although he spent his childhood in Battersea, south-west London. He was educated at Emanuel School in south London, where he excelled at rugby and Eton fives.
He was dissuaded from pursuing a career in marine biology at university by an astute teacher who felt his talents would be better served in medicine, which proved to be of great benefit to neuropathology. He graduated from St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, in 1965 and took up his first house officer post at Rochford Hospital, in Essex, later moving to the Brook Hospital, London. He met Dr Anthony Woolf, a neuro-pathologist, who stimulated his interest in research.
In 1968 he returned to Essex, where he joined the department of neuropathology as a senior registrar at Runwell Hospital, a post jointly held with the Maudsley Hospital, London, and began working with the eminent Professor J.A.N. Corsellis. Together they were involved in a number of valuable research projects, which began with work on epilepsy, published in the paper "The Pathology of the Brain in Epilepsy" (1969). The seminal paper "The Aftermath of Boxing" followed in 1973, which became the driving force behind several significant changes in boxing legislation: the reduction of rounds in world championships from 15 rounds to 12, the compulsory use of headgear in all amateur contests and the total abolition of boxing in all UK schools. Despite his research Bruton refused to condemn the sport outright and in 1995 admitted he still enjoyed watching the occasional bout.
In 1971, he entered general practice, although he retained his links with neuropathological research. He later moved to Birmingham but still returned to complete his research at Runwell Hospital for the much-acclaimed Maudsley Monograph The Neuropathology of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (1988) which was to influence the treatment of epilepsy. He wrote the chapter on epilepsy in Greenfield's Neuropathology (1992).
Together, Corsellis and Bruton worked to establish the Runwell department of the neuropathology as a research centre of growing importance. There followed further work on epilepsy and aging and dementia which attracted considerable national and international attention and led to the establishment of a collection of brains at the hospital. By 1993 they numbered over 8,000.
Bruton made a considerable contribution to the better understanding of brain abnormalities in schizophrenia, and in collaboration with Dr T.J. Crow, at Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, published "Neuropathology of Schizophrenia: I, Global Assessment; II, Lateral Ventricle; III, Gliosis" (1987). At the time of his death Bruton was undertaking further studies into the disease. He was involved with research into Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy and had just published a paper, "Diagnosis and Incidence of Prion (Creutzfeldt-Jacob) Disease: a retrospective archival survey with implications for future research" (1995).
From the mid-1980s until 1995, the department of neuropathology at Runwell had been largely funded by the Medical Research Council, with whom Bruton had established close working relationships. When, in 1994, plans were announced to break up and re-distribute the archive, Bruton was instrumental in ensuring that the custodianship of the department and the material was transferred to Southend Community Care Services NHS Trust, leading to his appointment as curator of the Corsellis Collection brain bank. This change brought further publicity for the department, and for Bruton in particular, who found himself the focus of international media attention.
Despite his contention that the publicity was an intrusion into his work, he was always charming and possessed a unique ability to talk passionately about his work.The quality and originality of the standards he set will remain a lasting legacy to neuroscience.
Clive Joseph Bruton, neuropathologist: born Leicestershire 18 September 1941; honorary consultant, Department of Neuropathology, Runwell Hospital 1986-94, curator, Corsellis Collection 1994-96; married 1965 Dr Ann Udal (one son, three daughters); died Rawreth, Essex 1 February 1996.