Wendy Grant – May 1922 – March 2012

Wendy Grant, who has died aged 89, was a neuropathologist who became one of the first scientists to warn the public that BSE, also known as Mad Cow Disease, could be incubating in the human population.

The disease was first identified in cows in 1985 but it was the persistent work of Wendy Grant, a retired consultant neuropathologist and an expert in slow viruses, that bought the disease to public and government attention. This resulted in  an eventual ban on the use of ofal in human foods and stopped the spread of the disease.

Helen Grant, always known as Wendy, was born in Ealing, west London on May 11 1922. Her parents were involved in relief work with refugees and her father had spent some time in prison in the First World War, as a conscientious objector.

Wendy was educated at schools in France, Austria, New Zealand and finally at Bedales, where she became head girl. After taking a degree in Medicine at Cambridge, she did her clinical training at University College London. She decided to specialise in neuropathology and in 1970 joined the Middlesex Hospital as a consultant. In 1985 she moved to Charing Cross Hospital as a senior lecturer and honorary consultant in neuropathology.

A life-long opponent of boxing, Wendy Grant was able to demonstrate that the part of the brain most affected by punching corresponds with the areas attacked by other neurological conditions such as Parkinsons. When Cassius Clay, alias Muhammad Ali, degenerated into an incoherent wreck within 10 years of retiring and the sport’s defenders claimed he was not punch drunk but was suffering from Parkinson’s, she observed that if he was indeed suffering from Parkinsons, it was a convenient coincidence. “Boxing is bad for the brain full stop,” she said.

Wendy Grant married, in 1945, Alick Elithorn, but the marriage was later dissolved. She is survived by a son. A daughter predeceased her.

Wendy Grant, born May 11 1922, died March 14 2012


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

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