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Sir Geoffrey Jefferson (1886-1961) and the making of British neurosurgery (history of medicine).

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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  Dr Kirk Robert, Dr C Timmermann  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This studentship, based in the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM), will develop a comprehensive understanding of the history of neurology in Manchester across the twentieth century. Research will examine the work of neurosurgeon Sir Geoffrey Jefferson (1886-1961) and his collaborators, including Dorothy Davison (1890-1984), an important figure in the art of medical illustration. Jefferson published many important works such as those on fractures of the atlas vertebra (often referred to as Jefferson's Fracture), and in 1924 performed the first successful embolectomy in Britain. Holding several surgical positions in the Manchester area, Jefferson took up the first neurosurgical chair in England at The University of Manchester and Director of the Neurological Laboratories in 1945 before being elected to the Royal Society in 1947. Dorothy Davison trained at the Manchester School of Art and entered the field of medical illustration through work done on Egyptology at the Manchester Museum. Well known for her neurological, orthopaedic and haematological paintings, Davison produced several illustrations for Jefferson whilst working at the MRI and The University of Manchester. She was a pioneer in the field, and in 1939 was appointed Medical Artist by The University of Manchester, training a new generation of medical artists.

This project will explore Jefferson’s work across clinical research, neurosurgery and medicine, as well as his formative role in shaping the British neurology through contributions to the work of the Medical Research Council (as the Chairman of its Clinical Research Committee), thereby reconstructing his legacy and continued influence. In 2021, The University of Manchester launched the Geoffrey Jefferson Brain Research Centre which conducts ground breaking research to tackle some of medical science’s most devastating conditions. The launch of the centre demonstrates the continued influence of Jefferson’s work and Manchester’s contribution to the advancement of neurological research.

Entry Requirements

Essential qualifications:

* a BA and MA in a historical area that demonstrates research expertise pertinent to this project, for example history of science, technology or medicine.

* a strong grasp of recent historiographical debates pertinent to the project, including those linked to health and medicine in the late nineteenth through twentieth century.

* the ability to understand and engage quickly with new historiographical debates and with the arguments and approaches adopted in allied fields, and to frame research findings within a variety of historiographical and methodological contexts; excellent analytical and writing skills;

* experience of working with empirical sources in archives, libraries and other collections; 

* excellent organisational skills; 

* ability to work both independently and as part of a team.

Desired qualifications:

* experience of oral history and the ability to work with varied forms of historical evidence (e.g. text, visual and material) experience of organising conferences and/or other events;

* experience of promoting research via websites and social media;

* experience of managing and analysing large sets of data and use of databases/digital analytical software (for example NVivo)

How To Apply

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select the appropriate subject title.

For international students, we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website”

Funding Notes

Supported by a gift to UoM by David Shreeve to support a PhD within the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM) in the School of Medical Sciences, FBMH - funding covers stipend and tuition fees at UKRI rate.


F. Walshe (1961) 'Geoffrey Jefferson' Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 7: 127-135.
Geoffrey Jefferson (1949) ‘The mind of mechanical man’ British Medical Journal Jun 25; 1(4616): 1105–1110.
DOI: 10.1136/bmj.1.4616.1105
P. D. Mohr (2017) ‘Dorothy Davison (1890-1984): Manchester medical artist and her work for neurosurgeon Sir Geoffrey Jefferson (1886-1961)’ Journal of Medical Biography 25(2):130-137. DOI: 10.1177/0967772014555292
Peter H. Schurr (1997) So That Was Life: Biography of Sir Geoffrey Jefferson London: Royal Society of Medicine.
Papers of and relating to Sir Geoffrey Jefferson (University of Manchester):
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