Richard Caton is recognized as the discoverer of the waves of electrical potential which today form the basis of electroencephalography. Born in Bradford on 26th July 1842, soon after graduating from Edinburgh Medical School, in 1868, he moved to Liverpool and for the next half century served the city in a wide variety of roles.
His first position in Liverpool was assistant physician to the Liverpool Infirmary for Children. He was physician to the Northern Hospital from 1876 to 1886 and physician to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary from 1886 to 1902, where he became consulting physician upon his retirement. He was Vice-Chairman of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine from its foundation in 1899.
Caton’s contribution to the city extended considerably beyond his medical appointments, being heavily involved in the establishment of the University of Liverpool, serving on the Court of Governors from the institution’s first day. Caton was the first representative of Liverpool University on the General Medical Council, an appointment that he occupied until his death. He was a Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University from 1921 to 1924, and served for a time as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. He served as President of the Liverpool Medical Institution in 1896 and was President of the Liverpool Athenaeum Club. A Conservative, he served on the city council and was Lord Mayor in 1907-8. A staunch Anglican, he served on the building committee for the new Anglican cathedral.
He carried out pioneering research into the electrical nature of the brain, reporting to the BMA in 1875 his use of a galvanometer to observe electrical impulses from the surfaces of living brains in the rabbit and monkey. This early work was for many years largely forgotten but after his death Hans Berger acknowledged Caton’s early work in his 1929 report on the discovery of alpha waves.
In 1885 he married Annie Ivory (1855–1912), daughter of an Edinburgh Solicitor. They had two daughters, Anne Rose and Mildred Robina. His first home in Liverpool seems to have been at 2 Balmoral Road L6 (now demolished), then moving to 8 Abercromby Square L7, the house where his mother died in 1873. From 1890 to 1903 Caton lived in the substantial mansion, Lee Hall, in Gateacre. Lee Hall was demolished in the late 1950’s, much of the attendant land being purchased for the establishment of Lee Park Golf Club. He subsequently lived at Holly Lee, 3 Livingstone Drive South L17, near Sefton Park. At the time of his death his residence was 7 Sunnyside, Princes Park L8.
Richard Caton died on2nd January 1926 at Haslemere, having moved to Surrey for his health. He was buried, alongside his wife, at All Saints Church, Childwall.
Caton's home c. 1875-1890
Caton's Gateacre home 1890-1903
Caton's home from 1903.
Caton's home address as given on his p[robate documents in 1926.
The Wikipedia entry gives a fairly comprehensive summary of his life and career. There is also a brief biography on the Royal College of Surgeons website. There are alkso references to him in A History of the Liverpool Medical Institution [John A Shepherd, Bemrose Press, 1979] Contemporary Biographies: Liverpool and Birkenhead [W T Pike 1911] and Orchard's Liverpool Legion of Honour
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