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Sir Martin Roth

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 30 November 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1175
  1. Caroline Richmond

First president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists whose research broke new ground on Alzheimer's and anxiety

Sir Martin Roth contributed greatly to psychiatry and was one of only three psychiatrists to be elected to fellowship of the Royal Society. He was an intellectual giant and a fine orator and steered psychiatry towards an ethos that was research based, intellectually rigorous, and compassionate. He taught a generation of psychiatrists and was a source of inspiration for mental health research.

In the early 1950s, when he was director of clinical research at Graylingwell Hospital in Chichester, he showed that many elderly patients in long stay hospitals whose condition was attributed to senility and dementia and who were deemed incurable were suffering from treatable disorders such as depression, or from infection-induced delirium, and could recover. He spoke German, and by going back to Alzheimer's original description of the dementia that bears his name, and Kraepelin's equally superb descriptions of depression and anxiety, restored their view of these conditions, which had been largely forgotten during the age of Freud and psychoanalysis.

In Newcastle in the 1960s he showed, with Bernard Tomlinson, that the degree of cognitive impairment was related to the extent of brain damage found post mortem in stroke-induced dementia and Alzheimer's disease. These changes were absent or minimal in patients with functional disorders and …

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