Dr Alfred Goodman Levy

Personal Details

Dr Alfred Goodman Levy MD FFARCS MRCP MRCS

06/11/1866 to 31/03/1954

Place of birth: Melbourne, Australia

Nationality: British

CRN: 715251

Education and qualifications

General education

University College School, London; University College Hospital Medical School

Primary medical qualification(s)


Initial Fellowship and type

FFARCS by Election

Year of Fellowship


Other qualification(s)

MBBS, London, 1893; MD, London, 1896; MRCP, 1908

Professional life and career

Postgraduate career

In his first year after qualifying Levy worked in a local dispensary and did research for his MD, a project on recovery after brain compression suggested by the pioneer brain surgeon, Prof Victor Horsley. In 1894 he joined the South Africa Company as a district surgeon, becoming the first doctor to work in Bulawayo, experiencing clinical highlights (e.g. performing trephination for a brain abscess, presumably using skills acquired during the animal experiments for his MD), difficulties with professional colleagues, and being wounded in one of the local uprisings. He returned to the UK in 1896, completed his MD and became involved in a range of research projects at UCH. From 1903-5 he was resident anaesthetist at Guy’s Hospital, and then returned to research work before being appointed physician to the London Chest Hospital in 1913, also working in private practice. During WW1 he volunteered for the RAMC and was put in charge of a training corps. He retired in 1931.

Professional interests and activities

Today Levy might be described as a research physician. During his career he worked on a very wide range of projects, was a pioneer of physiologically based animal experiments, and an early advocate of controlled trials of different treatment options. Although he continued to write on anaesthesia thereafter, his work in the subject, clinical and experimental, was performed during the first decade of the 20th century. In 1905 he won the Dr Nathaniel Rogers Prize for a clinical paper on chloroform anaesthesia, but his lasting contribution was the demonstration that strong stimulation under light chloroform anaesthesia caused ventricular fibrillation. Whether this was the primary cause of all chloroform deaths will never be established, but the explanation gained increasing acceptance, and continues to have an impact on anaesthetic practice. He also wrote on resuscitation, promoting the then unconventional practices of open chest cardiac massage and tracheal intubation. His 1922 book, ‘Chloroform Anaesthesia’, brought all of this work together. He had major roles, from 1911-1938, in the establishment (1921) and running of the London Jewish Hospital, and was co-founder & first president of the London Jewish Hospital Medical Society (1928). He continued to be active after retirement, pursuing an animal project on heat stroke and making a “layman’s” assessment of psychoanalysis that did not sit well with Freud’s theories! In spite of all this activity there was no obituary in either BMJ or Lancet, and he never advanced to FRCP. Perhaps those difficulties with colleagues in South Africa give a clue, although he was made a Fellow of University College, London when he retired. A very full biography is available (see below).

Other biographical information

Levy married Mary Louisa Isaac in 1907, and they had two children. He was fond of tennis, golf & croquet, and an expert on photography and fly fishing.

Author and sources

Author: Prof Tony Wildsmith

Sources and any other comments: Hovell BC, Masson AHB, Wilson J. Alfred Goodman Levy (1866-1954): a biography, Brit J Anaesth 1972; 44: 115-21