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Becoming a doctor was predestined, but becoming a neurologist was a matter of free will. My great-grandfather was, like my brother, a general practitioner. My grandfather was a surgeon, my father a physician and my elder daughter, who was not then a twinkle in either her father's or mother's eye, was to be an obstetrician. Although I knew I wanted to be a doctor from childhood, I followed a family tradition, starting with classics at school and switching with relief to biology in my last year. At Cambridge, my tutor was a neuroanatomist and our neuroscience lecturers were almost all Fellows of the Royal Society. Pat Merton, a neurophysiologist, demonstrated vestibular function by blindfolding a duck and showing how she kept her head upright even with her body upside down. William Rushton, a visual physiologist, explained the action potential as being like the all or none action of a lavatory cistern. Dixon Boyd, Professor of Anatomy, demonstrated a brain with agenesis of the cerebellum which was alleged to have belonged to a steeplejack (an allegation later refuted in Brain). This gave me an inappropriately low opinion of the importance of the cerebellum. By the end of the 2 year first part of the Natural Sciences Tripos, neurology was my goal. The choice was endorsed during the second part of the Tripos (a year similar to a modern intercalated BSc). Its practical courses were led …
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.