Dr Henry Isaac Gosset's icterometer and the development of neonatal care
Dr Andrew N. Williams & Mr Fred O’Dell, Virtual Academic Unit, Northampton General Hospital, UK
Thursday 5th November
WF38 on the first floor of the Medical School at 5.30pm
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
Institute of Applied Health Research
This paper explores the origins of perinatal (premature baby) care in the UK in the 1950s and 1960s using recently available archival material for Northampton, through the generosity of the family of Dr Isaac Henry Gosset (1907-1965). Dr Gosset was appointed the first consultant paediatrician for Northampton General Hospital in 1947, with extensive clinical responsibilities for Northamptonshire, and part of north Oxfordshire In neonatal practice he designed the ‘Gosset icterometer’, made of Perspex and manufactured by Ingram’s of Birmingham it allowed accurate estimation of serum bilirubin without a blood test. The icterometer was trialled in both Northampton and Birmingham and both studies were published in the Lancet in 1960. These are amongst the very earliest neonatal care research papers in such a prestigious journal and reflect that at the time icterometers, were an important advance. Icterometers were used for many years afterwards, but having been superseded they are no longer supported by current NICE guidelines.
Dr Gosset died of a coronary thrombosis aged only 57. Shortly before his death, he designed the neonatal unit at Northampton. In this he was a generation ahead of his time, which even in the 1970s saw such units as being restricted to teaching centres. The Gosset Neonatal unit is named after him and working to this day.
Using the material from ‘The Gosset Collection’ the history of the development of the icterometer and the perinatal care pathway of the 1950s and early 1960s will be reconstructed. Both will be placed in the context of a rapidly evolving area of medical care. On the 50th anniversary of his untimely death, this paper is dedicated to Dr Gosset’s life and selfless dedication for the children under his care.