AN ACCOUNT OF THE LIFE AND ACHIEVEMENTS OF MISS DIANA BECK, NEUROSURGEON (1902–1956)

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Abstract

DIANA BECK (1902–1956) WAS probably the first female neurosurgeon in the world and played a large part in establishing neurosurgery in the United Kingdom. She served as the consultant advisor in neurosurgery for the Emergency Medical Service in the southwest region during the Second World War and subsequently set up the neurosurgical unit at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol before becoming a consultant at The Middlesex Hospital in London in 1947. There, she was the first woman to be given charge of men in a consultant capacity in a major London teaching hospital. During her 31-year career, she was the only female neurosurgeon in Western Europe and the United States.

Miss Beck came to the attention of the general public when she operated on Alan Alexander Milne in 1952. However, she was better known in neurosurgical circles for her interest in intracranial hemorrhage. In this article, some of her original research, case reports, and her seminal paper on the surgical treatment of intracerebral hemorrhage are presented. They are a stark reminder of the limited investigations available at that time.

In addition to her neurosurgical achievements, Miss Beck was a remarkable character and teacher. Her Saturday ward rounds proved so popular that they competed successfully with the students' weekend plans. In a specialty in which women continue to represent a disproportionately small percentage of the workforce, Miss Beck was one of our earliest role models.

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