Edward Mansfield Brockbank was a cardiologist with wide interests in general medicine and a love of the local medical history of Manchester to which his parents brought him shortly after his birth at Geelong, Australia. He was the son of John Thomas Brockbank, a metal merchant, and Charlotte Sadler, of Tasmania, and had his early education at Bootham School, York, and Owens College, Manchester, before entering the Manchester Medical School.
After resident posts in Manchester Royal Infirmary and Birmingham General Hospital he was appointed junior physician to the Royal Children’s Hospital. He then returned to his own hospital as honorary assistant physician and lecturer in materia medica. In 1912 he became lecturer in clinical medicine and dean of medical studies.
For forty-five years, until 1951, he served on the University library committee, for the last twenty-one as its chairman, while also acting as a medical referee for industrial diseases.
Brockbank was a painstaking teacher of all aspects of clinical medicine and a prolific writer on his own specialties, but still had time for the distinguished work on the prevention of cancer in mule spinners for which he was created M.B.E. His research workers had found the disease to be due to certain types of oils used in the mills; he became an ardent propagandist for early examination and treatment.
In 1899 he married his first cousin, Mary Ellwood Brockbank; they had two daughters and three sons. One son, William, joined his father as a Fellow of the College. Three other relatives were also made Fellows: his brother-in-law, Thomas Harris, Thomas’s son, Kenneth Edwin Harris, and his mother’s uncle, William George Maton.
Brockbank was a distinguished, white-haired figure, a lively talker, and a great raconteur of the times and customs of his early days to anyone willing to listen. A prolific writer of books and papers, he was greatly interested in the history of Manchester medical institutions. When, in 1929, the British Medical Association held its annual meeting there, he edited A Book of Manchester and Salford. His Sketches of the lives and work of the honorary staff of the Manchester Infirmary, 1752-1830 (1904) and the Foundation of provincial medical education in England (1936) are well-known.
Richard R Trail
[Brit.med.J., 1959, 1, 117-18; Lancet, 1959, 1, 106; Manchester Guardian, 3 Jan. 1959.]