Prof. Gilbert Stead, M.A., D.Sc. (Doctor of Science), Fellow of the Institute of Physics, Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce, and Fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society was a pioneer in the development of radiology as a recognized medical specialty. In 1924, he wrote the text Elementary Physics, which was "hailed as a superb source of help to struggling radiology and medical students."1 This text was published in updated editions for 50 years. In 1939, he wrote the book Notes in Practical Physics.

Stead was an undergraduate at the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University, graduating in 1913. He then went to HM Signals School in Portsmouth until 1918. He returned to the Cavendish as a lecturer in 1919, and it is probably during this period that he wrote "hv". In 1923, he began as lecturer at Guy's Hospital, while continuing his duties at the Cavendish. (Guy's is one of the premiere research hospitals in England.) In 1938, he was elected to the newly-created Chair of Physics at Guy's, and held this until his retirement in 1953. He taught more than 3,000 students, and was highly regarded as a teacher: "Gentle in manner he nevertheless retained in his lecture room an air of command which did not invite disturbance. What he perhaps did not realize was the depth of the affection which they came to feel for him."2

He was president of the British Institute of Radiology from 1947 to 1948.


Many thanks to Dr. Adrian Thomas, Honorary Librarian of the British Institute of Radiology, for his help with this biographical sketch.

1 - "History of the Hospital Physicists Association 1943-1983", p. 130.
2 - The Times of London, Nov 16, 1979; p. 8.

Gilbert Stead 1888-1979
(Image courtesy of the archives of the British Institute of Radiology)


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Background image: bright line spectra of hydrogen, mercury, and neon