Barry Blackwell: In Memory of David C. Taylor (1933- 2021)
David was my oldest and closest friend from our time as members of the 1962 resident group at the Maudsley, affectionately known as “The Brigade of Guards,” a reflection on our stature, almost all well over six feet tall.
Before the Maudsley we both played rugby, often a ticket to medical school, David to Charing Cross me to Guy’s Hospital. Both of us played in the second row of the scrum. After we bonded David confessed, he was a timid player who did his best to avoid trauma; I was more reckless and incurred a cauliflower ear that required plastic surgery to accommodate a stethoscope.
We both began in the “B” Stream, devoid of Membership in the Royal College of Physicians which Sir Aubrey Lewis considered the desirable prelude to psychiatric residency. I believe we proved he was wrong. Our trajectory differed but we collaborated for almost a decade.
David was assigned to Murray Falconer’s temporal lobe surgery unit at the Maudsley; I was posted to Lindford Rees’s unit at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in the suburbs where I discovered the sometimes-fatal interaction between MAO Inhibitors and tyramine containing foods, mostly cheese, leading to research in rats that earned me a Cambridge M.D.
Meanwhile David plotted his patients’ postoperative medical and psychosocial course following surgical removal of the temporal lobe lesions causing epilepsy. In 1971 he published the results, work that won his M.D. and an international reputation. If you log on the internet and type in Taylor’s Temporal Lobe Dysplasia you will find the outcome of his research and this acknowledgement, “Taylor’s Dysplasia is named after David C. Taylor, a British Psychiatrist who first described it in 1971.”
While our primary work was in different sectors David collaborated with me. When I had reason to speculate that MAOI might interfere with the metabolism of alcohol he served as my guinea pig taking tranylcypromine and consuming alcohol which he enjoyed without ill effects.
David was a co-author of the final article telling the entire MAOI story published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 1967.
Curious to know why and how the MAOI was used by the consultants who worked in the Maudsley Outpatient Clinic David and I designed what must have been one of the first effectiveness studies in the literature, presented to the Royal Society in 1967.
When I migrated to America in 1968, still “the land of opportunity,” our interactions became more sporadic, but our interests and clinical modus operandi were synchronous. David became involved in child psychiatry and I in psychosomatic medicine where we shared a common interest in illness behavior; how patients of all ages shaped, concealed or exaggerated their medical problems to doctors and the world. We were both enraptured by single cases explored in depth. Perhaps our common interests were hardly surprising – we were both born under the sign of Cancer, David July 4, Barry July 5.
David loved an audience. As a medical student, he was a stand-up comic and as a lecturer, he hated power-point presentations which he lampooned in an entertaining journal article. All his presentations were anecdotal; he told stories that made the patients and the audience come alive. When he gave a talk in Wales, he introduced himself in the Welsh language.
David languished when journal editors began rejecting single case studies in favor of statistical masterpieces. Losing that audience may have helped usher in his final illness. During which he was fortunate to have a kind, talented caretaker, also a psychiatrist, his wife Karin. May David’s soul rest in peace and may Karin enjoy many happy carefree years.
July 15, 2021