William Riddell

Biography of William Riddell

William John Brownlow Riddell
William John Brownlow Riddell

William John Brownlow Riddell was born on 11th February 1899. His father, Brownlow Riddell, was a distinguished ophthalmic surgeon and his son chose to follow in his footsteps, matriculating at the University of Glasgow in 1916, at the age of 17, to study medicine. He had been a pupil at the Glasgow Academy. The family home was at 22 Newton Place, Glasgow.

His studies were soon interrupted, however, by the outbreak of war and he left to train as a Royal Naval Officer. He served as a Midshipman and returned to matriculate again in 1919, completing his studies in 1923, when he graduated MB ChB. He had a very successful undergraduate career, and was to go on to become one of Britain’s leading eye specialists. He had a career which spanned five decades and encompassed practice, teaching and research.

Between 1923 and 1928, Brownlow Riddell held resident appointments in hospitals in Glasgow and London. In 1928 he returned to Glasgow to take over his father’s private practice at 22 Newton Place, Charing Cross. At the same time he was also appointed as an eye specialist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. In 1941 he was appointed Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Glasgow, a post that he held until 1964 working in the Western Infirmary. He was one of the last medical professors to be appointed on terms that permitted him to continue his private practice, which he did even whilst a busy Dean of the Faculty.

Professor Riddell’s appointments included President of the Scottish Ophthalmological Club, of the ophthalmology section of the Royal Society of Medicine and of the Society for the Blind in Glasgow. He was Vice President of the Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom.

A distinguished academic, he pursued research interests in ophthalmology and heredity. During World War Two he investigated the harmful effects of chemical agents used in warfare. For his work on heredity he was awarded an MD with high commendation in 1940 and also elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 1946 Professor Riddell gave the Howe lecture at Harvard and the May lecture at New York Academy of Medicine. His publications included Eyes in Industry in 1951 and the History of Glasgow Ophthalmological Institution, 1868-1968 in 1968.

Professor Riddell retired in 1964 and moved to Aberdeen. He had a deep interest in the history of the Royal Navy and built up a fine collection of books on the topic. He died in Australia in 1976.


William Riddell

Born 11 February 1899.
Died 18 February 1976.
University Link: Alumnus, Professor
GU Degrees: MD, MB ChB, 1923;
Occupation categories: ophthalmologists
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Record last updated: 31st Jan 2017

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University Roles

  • Alumnus
  • Professor

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