Atkinson Morley Hospital

Atkinson Morley Hospital (AMH) was located at Copse Hill near Wimbledon, South-West London, England from 1869 until 2003. Initially a convalescent hospital, it became one of the most advanced brain surgery centres in the world, and was involved in the development of the CT scanner. Following its closure, neuroscience services were relocated to the new Atkinson Morley Wing of St George's Hospital, Tooting.

Atkinson Morley Hospital
St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Atkinson Morley Hospital
Atkinson Morley Hospital is located in London Borough of Merton
Atkinson Morley Hospital
Shown in Merton
LocationCopse Hill, England
Care systemNHS England
Affiliated universitySt George's, University of London
Emergency departmentNo
ListsHospitals in England
Other linksSt George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust



The hospital was opened in 1869 following a donation of £100,000 by Atkinson Morley, a wealthy hotelier and landowner, to St George's Hospital "for receiving, maintaining, and generally assisting convalescent poor patients".[1] Morley had been a medical student at St George's Hospital circa 1800 when it was located at Hyde Park Corner.[2] 28 acres (11 ha) of land from the Duke of Wellington's old estate in Wimbledon was bought and a building was constructed in the Second Empire style. It opened on 14 July 1869.[3]

The hospital remained a convalescent home until 1939. During the Second World War, when the Bolingbroke and St. George's acted as emergency hospitals for war casualties, the Neurosurgery Unit was established at the AMH by the neurosurgeon Sir Wylie McKissock. He was by far the most prolific lobotomist in the country, performing lobotomies at Atkinson Morley and across the south of England.[4]

As the Regional Neurosciences Unit for South West London, the hospital even had its own helicopter landing facility. Next door was the Wolfson Neurorehabilitation Centre.[5]

A form of lobotomy known as limbic leucotomy was developed in the early 1970s by surgeon Alan Richardson at Atkinson Morley Hospital. The operation combines stereotactic subcaudate tractotomy and cingulotomy, with up to 14 cryogenic lesions made in the brain.[6] Limbic leucotomies continued to be performed at Atkinson Morley Hospital until 1999.[7][8]

The hospital remained open until 2003 when neurology services were relocated to a purpose-built wing of the main St George's Hospital site, which had by then moved to Tooting. The Wolfson Neurorehabilitation Centre was closed in 2012 after providing a rehabilitation service to patients of the new Atkinson Morley's Wing at St. George's Hospital and throughout South West London. The building and nearby grounds were converted into apartments and renamed Wimbledon Hill Park.[9]

Development of the CT scanner


In 1967 an electronics engineer from EMI, Godfrey Hounsfield, visited consultant radiologist Jamie Ambrose to discuss a new method of using X-rays to image the brain. Although Hounsfield had been dismissed as a crank by a neuroradiologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Ambrose and other staff thought the proposal was interesting.[10] Ambrose gave him a bottled brain tumour sample to see if he could make good on his claim that "I can do better" than their state-of-the-art X-ray and ultrasound images.[11] When Hounsfield returned five weeks later with a detailed image of the tumour, Ambrose was convinced and he encouraged the Department of Health to fund the building of a prototype scanner. Hospital staff were sworn to secrecy while the first tomographic scanner to produce computed tomographic images of a live patient's brain was constructed and tested.[10][12]

On 1 October 1971 the first patient was scanned and the data sent off for analysis. The resulting images were examined by the hospital's neuroradiologists, neurologists and neurosurgeons who immediately appreciated their value. There was international media interest and hundreds of clinicians visited the hospital to see the new scanner.[10][12] Hounsfield shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with the physicist Allan M. Cormack "for the development of computer assisted tomography".[13]

References and sources

  1. ^ Gould & Uttley, p. 5
  2. ^ Gould & Uttley, p. 8
  3. ^ Gould & Uttley, p. 17
  4. ^ "The strange and curious history of lobotomy". BBC News. 8 November 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  5. ^ Sir Wylie McKissock established Atkinson Morley's Hospital as a neurosciences centre and later founded The Wolfson: "Obituary". BMJ: British Medical Journal. 308 (6941): 1433–1434. 1994. PMC 2540360.
  6. ^ D Kelly and N Mitchell-Heggs 1973 Stereotactic limbic leucotomy – a follow-up study of thirty patients. Postgraduate Medical Journal 49: 865–82.
  7. ^ C Freeman 1997 Neurosurgery for mental disorder in the UK. Psychiatric Bulletin 21: 67–9.
  8. ^ Mental Health Act Commission 1999 Eighth biennial report. The Stationery Office: 183.
  9. ^ "Former hospital imaginatively restored for Wimbledon Hill Park development". Surrey Life. 23 March 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Filler, Aaron G. "The History, Development and Impact of Computed Imaging in Neurological Diagnosis and Neurosurgery: CT, MRI, and DTI" (PDF). Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  11. ^ Richmond, Caroline (9 May 2006). "Jamie Ambrose - Modest radiologist who helped to pioneer the CT scanner". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 September 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Dr Jamie Ambrose". The Scotsman. 16 May 2006. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  13. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1979". Retrieved 24 March 2018.

51°25′04″N 0°14′15″W / 51.41778°N 0.23750°W / 51.41778; -0.23750