Arthur Boycott was born at Hereford, the second son of William Boycott and Eliza Wellard. The story of his student days and of his professional life reads like a list of every possible prize and distinction open to scholars in classics, science and medicine. The senior classical scholarship at Oriel College, Oxford, in 1894 was followed by first class honours in natural sciences (physiology), the Bishop Fraser scholarship in 1899, and then by the Wainwright, Seymour Graves Toller, Public Health, Haddea and Grainger testimonial prizes at St. Thomas’s Hospital.
In 1903 he was elected to a prize fellowship at Brasenose and was Gordon lecturer in pathology at Guy’s Hospital just before his appointment as assistant pathologist to the Lister Institute where he remained till 1907, when Guy’s recalled him to a second tenure of the Gordon lectureship. For two years, 1912-14, he followed Lorrain Smith as professor of pathology at Manchester; he was then appointed to the first whole-time chair of pathology at University College Hospital Medical School and second director of the Graham Research Laboratories.
Boycott had time and zest for every aspect of medicine related to his special branch of pathology. From 1927 to 1931 he served on the council of the Royal Society. In the early days of World War I he worked for the Committee for Health in Munition Workers, but in 1917 he joined the R.A.M.C., and as a major was appointed to the Chemical Warfare Committee then led by Joseph Barcroft. From 1922 to 1935 he was a member of the executive committee of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, and from 1925 till his death at the age of sixty-one he served on the governing body of the Lister Institute. For three of these years, 1932-35, he was a member of the Medical Research Council.
None of these commitments interfered with his teaching of pathology, his direction of the routine work of his hospital, his resumed investigations with C. L. Oakley into the control of blood production, and his membership of the editorial board of the Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology, of which he was editor-in-chief for the ten years, 1923-33. Only continual ill health forced him to resign his chair in 1935.
While he was an unrivalled conversationalist, writer and debater who could be so bitter in his rigidity and prejudice as to antagonise his best friends, yet Boycott was quick to admit error, and had a great fund of sympathy and considerable social charm. In 1904 he married Constance, daughter of Colonel William Agg; they had two sons, one of whom specialised in pathology.
Richard R Trail
* This means that the Fellow was elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the Fellowship of "persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical Science or Literature..."
[Brit.med.J., 1938, 1, 1133-4 (p); Guy's Hosp. Rep., 1938, 88, 257-62; J.Path.Bact., 1938, 47, 161-94, bibl.; Lancet, 1938, 1, 1173,1190-92 (p); Nature (Lond.), 1938, 142, 13-15; Obit. Not. roy. Soc., 1936-8,2,561-71 (p); Times, 18 May 1938; D.N.B., 1931-40, 95-6.]