Ronald Hargreaves

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Ronald Hargreaves

George Ronald Hargreaves

(1908-07-14)14 July 1908
Died18 December 1962(1962-12-18) (aged 54)
National Hospital, Queen Square, London, England
Spouse(s)Dr Eva G. Byrde (married 1933)

George Ronald Hargreaves OBE, FRCP, MRCS (14 July 1908 – 18 December 1962) was a civilian and military psychiatrist.

Early life[edit]

Hargreaves was born in Yorkshire to James Arthur Hargreaves, and was the eldest of four children.[1] He was educated at Mill Hill School and then studied medicine at University College London, where he was involved in the students' dramatic society.[2] Hargreaves then attended University College Hospital Medical School, where he had the opportunity to become house physician and house surgeon.[1] Hargreaves was unable to take up this appointment because the death of his father required him to take paid work to support his younger siblings, but he was also averse to postgraduate training and examinations.[2] Instead of pursuing Membership of the Royal College of Physicians, therefore, he began a career in psychological medicine at Hill End Hospital, St Albans whilst simultaneously working as a clinical assistant to Bernard Hart at University College Hospital. He then worked at Cassel Hospital, Penshurst, Kent.

In 1933, Hargreaves married Eva G. Byrde, with whom he had four daughters.[1] In 1938, Ronald was appointed full physician at the Tavistock Clinic and Eva was granted a diploma in anaesthetics.

Military work[edit]

When World War II broke out, Hargreaves enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a specialist in psychiatry. Whilst waiting to begin work, he read up on Army history, regulations, structure and training. He paid particular attention to Fortescue's History of the British Army and a book on Army psychiatry written by the American psychiatrist Thomas Salmon at the end of the First World War, and used the expertise gleaned from these works to impress Army personnel who were sceptical about psychiatrists.[3] He began work as the Command Psychiatrist to Northern Command under Sir Ronald Adam and later worked in the War Office.

Hargreaves and his Tavistock colleagues were particularly interested in selection, and only a few months after joining up, Hargreaves was experimenting with the use of Raven's Progressive Matrices as a way of screening out unsuitable recruits.[4] His work on psychological methods of selection and allocation helped to bring about the creation of the Directorate for the Selection of Personnel, a General Service Selection scheme (GSS), and War Office Selection Boards (WOSBs).[2]

As well as his work on selection, Hargreaves also participated in work on neuroses. His research into causes of psychoneuroses in soldiers demonstrated that men with no predisposition to psychological breakdown (based on family history and childhood behaviour) were still at risk.[5] He argued that more attention should be paid to the circumstances of the breakdown, rather than purely focussing on background and patient history. He shaped the work conducted at Northfield Military Hospital by encouraging Harold Bridger to follow up on the group therapy work that Wilfred Bion and John Rickman had initiated, and by passing information on the Northfield experiments to Karl Menninger for the Journal of the Menninger Clinic.

Hargreaves also liaised with the United States Army and the Canadian Army, who he advised on the use of psychological staff when visiting North America in 1943 as Consultant to the Army.[1]

Post-War work[edit]

After the war, Hargreaves was awarded the OBE.[6] He worked for a time at the Tavistock Institute and then worked as medical officer at Unilever. In 1948, he was invited by Brock Chisholm to become the first chief of the mental health section of the World Health Organization, where he was an advocate of mental hygiene.[7] He retired from this role in 1955, when he became Nuffield Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Leeds, who awarded him an honorary MSc in 1957.[2] At Leeds, Hargreaves worked with colleagues such as Max Hamilton, running trials on chlorpromazine. Hamilton and Hargreaves developed a number of scales to measure anxiety, including the HAMA.[8]

Hargreaves was elected MRCP in 1959 and FRCP in 1962. As well as working for the university, Hargreaves served on the Medical Research Council, the Royal Medico-Psychological Association, and the British Medical Association. He also collected flamenco records and had an expert knowledge of flamenco dancing.[2]

Hargreaves' wife Eva died at the beginning of 1962, and Ronald died after an operation the same year, on 18 December.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "Professor G. R. Hargreaves". The Times. UK. 20 December 1962. p. 11.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "G. R. Hargreaves, O.B.E., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., MSc, F.R.C.P.Ed". British Medical Journal. 1 (5322): 62–63. 5 January 1963. JSTOR 20376121.
  3. ^ Shephard, Ben (2003). A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century. Harvard University Press. p. 190.
  4. ^ Jones, Edgar; Hyams, K.C; Wessely, Simon (2003). "Screening for Vulnerability to Psychological Disorders in the Military: An Historical Survey". Journal of Medical Screening. 1 (4436): 40–46. doi:10.1258/096914103321610798. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  5. ^ Hargreaves, Ronald (1940). "The Differential Aspects of the Psychoneuroses of War". In Miller, Emanuel. The Neuroses of War. Macmillan Co.
  6. ^ "Medical New Year Honours". British Medical Journal. 1 (4436): 60–62. 12 January 1946. JSTOR 20365192.
  7. ^ "European Committee for Mental Hygiene". British Medical Journal. 2 (4734): 789–790. 29 September 1951. JSTOR 25376539.
  8. ^ Worboys, Michael (2012). "The Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression: The making of a "gold standard" and the unmaking of a chronic illness, 1960–1980". Chronic Illness. 9 (3): 202–219. Retrieved 10 February 2016.