Professor Robert Bentley Todd (1809 -1860)
Physican and physiologist who reformed medical education
Robert Bentley Todd joined King’s as Professor of Physiology and Morbid Anatomy in 1836. He radically reformed medical education and campaigned persuasively for the establishment of a new teaching hospital for the college. King’s College Hospital was officially opened in 1840, housed in a former workhouse near the King’s site on the Strand.
Todd is best remembered for his description of transient paralysis after an epileptic fit – Todd’s paralysis – but this is a small part of his contributions to neurology and neuroscience. He was the first to recognise the functions of the posterior columns of the spinal cord, the concept of sensory (afferent) and motor (efferent) nerves and to give an account of the syphilitic disease of the spinal cord.
Todd was the first to apply Michael Faraday’s concepts of the polar forces of electricity and magnetism to the brain, laying the foundations of modern understanding of the electrical basis of brain activity and developing the first electrical theory of epilepsy.