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Oxford Undergraduates 1944 Obituary: Dr Maurice Charlton
  Dr Maurice Charlton
Also see: Observations and Quotations

Dr Maurice Charlton, neurologist, classical scholar and former fellow of Hertford College, Oxford, died on August 18 1994 aged 68. He was born on May 3, 1926.

In 1988, as one of the world's leading authorities on epilepsy, Maurice Charlton was invited to lecture at the universities of Okayama and Kagoshima. To the astonishment of his Japanese hosts, he delivered the lectures in Japanese, demonstrating a command of both the spoken and written language.

Charlton had learnt Japanese while serving towards the end of the Second World War as a sublieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, attached to the unit intercepting, translating and decoding enemy messages, and he kept up his knowledge of the language throughout his life.

Japanese was not the only foreign language he had mastered, however. He was also fluent in French, German, Italian and Greek and had more than a smattering of several, other languages. Among a list of some 25 scientific books and articles of which he was the author was one, written in collaboration with two medical colleagues, on the translation of electroencephalographic teminology into Chinese

Maurice Henry Charlton was born in Lutterworth, Leicestershire where his father was an official of the am Office. At the age of 13 he won a scholarship to Rugby School, where his allround academic and musical ability made the choice of a speciality difficult. He finally went into the classical sixth, and from there won an open classical scholarship to New College Oxford, in 1944.

He matriculated in 1946 and as an undergraduate showed a prowess in ancient Greek that it would be difficult to match, obtaining not only a double first in Classical Moderations and Literae Humaniores but being awarded the Craven and Ireland university scholarships - and the Gaisford Greek verse and Greek prose prizes - in the same term: something achieved only once before in the history of the university (in 1882).

Charlton was reluctant to show off his erudition, and was indeed completely unassuming in manner, but on one occasion, when asked if there was anything in ancient Greek literature about mousetraps, rattled off a number of specific references, giving the line in one of Euripides's plays, for example, where the technical word for the stick that broke the mouse's back occurs. In 1950, immediately on graduating, Charlton was elected to a fellowship at Hertford College Oxford but he resigned after two years, and enrolled in the University Medical School. After completing his pre-clinical training at Oxford he emigrated to the United States, and graduated as Doctor of Medicine from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1958.

He then held a number of posts at Columbia University, being appointed assistant professor of neuroloy in 1968, while at the same time holding senior hospital and administrative appointments at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and other hospitals. In 1972 he was appointed associate professor of neurology and paediatrics at the University of Rochester, New York where he stayed until his retirement in 1992.

Charlton was a member of several professional societies, philological as well as medical, and was a visiting professor or consultant at universities or hospitals in Greece, Iran, Egypt, Switzerland and Japan, as well as in other states of the US. His publications covered an exceptionally wide range of neurological and psychological topics and he was for many years editor of the journal Epilepsia. He maintained his interest in classical Greek throughout his adult life, being a co-founder of the Society for Ancient Medicine, and publishing commentaries on Hippocrates and Theophrastus.

Maurice Charlton will be remembered by people in various walks of life as a great wit and raconteur as well as a man of incredibly wide learning. To many he was also a loyal and generous friend. He was twice married, both his wives predeceasing him. He is survived by his devoted companion of the last decade, Carol E. Hoffman


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