Obituary: Giuseppe Pampiglione
Tuesday 02 March 1993
GIUSEPPE PAMPIGLIONE, founder of the Department of Clinical Neurophysiology at the Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street, London, inspired a whole generation of doctors and electroencephalogram (EEG) technologists.
'Pep' Pampiglione had already laid the foundations of a distinguished medical career before he came to the United Kingdom in 1948. The son of a doctor, he graduated MD cum laude from the University of Rome in 1942, and obtained the Diploma in Neurology at the University of Bologna in 1948; he also spent periods of study in France. As a young doctor, he fought against Fascism, but rarely alluded to his experiences.
Although Pampiglione's initial interests were in the pathology of the nervous system, he soon became fascinated by the study of its electrical function (EEG/clinical neurophysiology), a rapidly developing field at that time. It was his interest that brought him to the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, at Queen Square in London, on a British Council Travelling Fellowship.
He extended the scope of the speciality in Britain as a lecturer in Clinical Neurophysiology at the Maudsley Hospital (from 1951), where, in collaboration with the neurosurgeon Murray Falconer, he recorded activity directly from the surface of the brain during operations for epilepsy, a field which is now undergoing a renaissance. He also worked part-time at the Charing Cross and Royal Free Hospitals, but his major international reputation was made after he moved in 1957 to the Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street, where he founded the Department of Clinical Neurophysiology.
At that time relatively little was known about the development of cerebral function in children, and Pampiglione organised systematic EEG recordings on normal children at different ages, often carrying these out in nursery schools. In addition to making observations on rare diseases which are still widely quoted, he took an interest in the possible effects of common childhood illnesses on the brain. He stressed the importance of recording the EEG at the bedside of the acutely ill child, and initiated work in the intensive care unit and operating theatre which continues in many centres to the present day.
His interests in the developing brain led him to use non-invasive recordings to study normal maturation in animals and also to investigate how nutritional deficiencies might affect brain development. As a result of these interests, he served two terms as President of Comparative Medicine at the Royal Society of Medicine. Other academic distinctions included visiting professorships in Europe and North America, and membership of the French and American EEG societies. He was Vice-President of the International Federation of Societies of EEG and Clinical Neurophysiology between 1957 and 1965. A particularly active supporter of the (British) EEG Society, serving as its Foreign Secretary and President, he was very proud of the Honorary Membership bestowed on him by the society on his retirement.
Pampiglione's department became a leading international centre for paediatric neurophysiology, attracting young doctors from every part of the world. Those who came to work there did not always find him an easy master, though most looked back on their time in his department with gratitude and affection. He was uncompromising in his drive to establish professional standards in all aspects of his speciality, and either convened or served on many important national and international committees which addressed these topics. His foresight and initiative led to the formation of the Association of British Clinical Neurophysiologists, on which he served as President. He was a founder member of the Biological Engineering Society, formed to encourage cross-disciplinary links between different specialists, and served as its Treasurer.
To the families of patients who came to see him, indeed to anyone in trouble, he was unfailingly kind, and showed a concern about patients' welfare which went far beyond the bounds of his own speciality. His love of children was seen in his approach to his young patients, and he could captivate the frightened and the fractious with consummate ease. He took a quiet pride in the achievements of his own children, one of whom has also become a doctor.
'Pep' retained a Mediterranean zest for life, shown in his appreciation of, and expertise in, fine food and wine. Many of his friends and colleagues across the world will long remember hospitable evenings at his home with his wife, Sara.
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