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From The Archives

Alastair Compston
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awu104 1565-1567 First published online: 25 April 2014

Fibre connections of the subthalamic region and the centro-median nucleus of the thalamus. By P. Glees and P. D. Wall. University Laboratory of Physiology, Oxford. Brain 1946; 69: 195–208

In expressing a liking for people who are ‘witty, world-wise, opinionated, argumentative, iconoclastic, intolerant of fools, and original to the level of eccentricity’, Patrick (‘Pat’) Wall (1925–2001) was largely describing himself (see The Guardian 16 August 2001; Alex May, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Jan 2005). His opinions were often couched in forthright terms, to the amusement of many and at the cost of a few; they espoused leftwing politics and the opposition of authoritarian doctrines. Over time, Wall substituted socialism with anarchism. He opposed the treatment of prisoners in Northern Ireland by the British Army; and was an outspoken member of the Gardiner Committee on the effects of rubber bullets. Pat Wall studied pain, deriving novel mechanistic concepts that advanced knowledge on plasticity and functions of the spinal cord. His legacy is the gate control theory of pain, developed with Ronald Melzack (see Brain 1962; 84: 331–56). This was influenced by his observation that the intensity of pain is unrelated to the amount of tissue damage, and by studies on phantom pain and causalgia in the Yom Kippur War (1973). His work led to the development of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and dorsal column stimulation. Wall’s scientific doctrine was to choose a subject ignored by others, write a book on it, and start a journal. To that end, he was the first editor-in-chief of the journal Pain (founded in 1975), co-editor with Melzack of the definitive Textbook of Pain (1983); and author of The Challenge of Pain (1982). He also wrote a novel [TRIOThe Revolting Intellectuals Organisation (1966)]. His lectures to students were irresistible. After qualification …

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