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William Bryan Jennett

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 28 February 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:512
  1. Caroline Richmond,
  2. Graham Teasdale

Pioneer academic neurosurgeon and world expert on brain damage prognosis

Bryan Jennett devised, with colleagues, the Glasgow coma scale, a tool used worldwide to assess states of consciousness, and the Glasgow outcome scale for patients with head injury. He defined the persistent vegetative state. He established the criteria for brain death and wrote lucidly and incisively on ethical issues, including the appropriate use of high technology. Combining a career as a neurosurgeon with laboratory and clinical research, he made Glasgow a world centre for neurosurgery. He was an inspirational teacher and trained many of the next generation of academic neurosurgeons.

Bryan was born in Twickenham, Middlesex, the son of a civil servant. He was educated at King’s College School, Wimbledon, and King George V School in Southport. He entered Liverpool University on a scholarship and qualified top of his class in 1949, having been president of the medical students’ society and of the National British Medical Students’ Association.

He became house physician to Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, who steered him towards neurosurgery. Later, in Oxford, …

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