UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


James Samuel Risien Russell

James Samuel Risien Russell (1863 - 1939) was appointed resident medical officer at the National Hospital (1888).

James Samuel Risien Russell was born in Demerara (now British Guyana) where his Scottish father was the owner of a sugar plantation and one of the island’s richest men. Risien (as he was often called) attended the Dollar Academy and then graduated in medicine in Edinburgh (1886). He worked at St Thomas’ Hospital, in Nottingham, at the London Metropolitan Hospital as pathologist, and was appointed resident medical officer at the National Hospital (1888), pathologist (1895–7), assistant physician (1898), physician to the outpatients (1899) and full physician (1909–28). He was president of the neurology section of the Royal Society of Medicine, and appointed to the Board of Management of the National Hospital. He served as a captain in the First World War, based in London, and was especially interested in the treatment of shell-shock.

He was the author or co-author of a number of research articles. He contributed articles on neurological disease to Quain's Dictionary of Medicine, Allbutt's A System of Medicine, the Encyclopaedia Medica, and Gibson's Textbook of Medicine.

Russell served as vice-president of the Section of Psychological Medicine and Neurology at the annual meeting of the BMA in London in 1910. He was elected a corresponding member of the Société de Neurologie de Paris.

He was a very popular teacher and sociable person. He had an enormous private practice, and was said to specialise particularly in the treatment of psychotic and psychoneurotic patients, who appreciated his charm and understanding. Critchley includes him among the pioneer neurologists in the Ventricle of Memory (1990), reporting that he exuded great charm and friendliness and was elegant with excellent taste. He wrote: ‘as House Physician, I would wait in the front hall of the hospital for his arrival. His Rolls-Royce car drove up and the chauffeur alighted to open the door for him. Risien bounded up the stairs two or three at a time, his movements being as quick as those of an athlete. As he made his way round the wards, he had a kind word of praise, or even flattery, for each patient. Each one felt buoyed up after the remarks he made smilingly, even though he never carried out a physical examination … Today, Risien Russell is forgotten. In his time, he was one of the most important and colourful figures within the medical profession of Great Britain. He was a sincere friend and wise counsellor, and I mourn his passing.’ He was renowned for unmatched dedication to his patients and, worn out by work, he died in his consulting room in Wimpole Street and is buried in Highgate cemetery (Windrush Foundation).

Queen Square: A History of the National Hospital and its Institute of Neurology https://www.nationalbrainappeal.org/product/queen-square-history-book/