|The son of a physician, Edward George Tandy Liddell was born on 25 March 1895 in Harrogate. Suffering from pneumonia bouts during his first years, Liddell was to remain in poor health throughout his life, but completed a vast amount of experimental work on the nature of the nervous system.
As an undergraduate reading medicine at Trinity College, Oxford, Liddell was greatly influenced by Sir Charles Scott Sherrington, who at that time held the position of Waynflete Professor of Physiology at Oxford. Sherrington had already made significant contributions to the study of the nervous system and reflexes with finely-tuned experiments on cats and dogs. His results demonstrated 'Sherrington's Law,' the principle that when one muscle is stimulated, muscles that work in opposition are simultaneously inhibited, a turning point in the understanding of co-ordinated motion. Liddell was to be Sherrington's sole assistant in research until 1926. Much of their collaboration appears in Liddell's dissertation, which provided concrete experimental evidence of Sherrington's theories of inhibition.
Liddell continued to refine his experimental techniques in recording reflexes and contributed many details to the emerging picture of the integrated nervous system, often collaborating with pioneers of neurology such as D Denny-Brown and J C Eccles. He conducted several experiments concerning postural reflexes and their origin of control in the brain, work which proved crucial in understanding spinal cord injuries. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1939 and Waynflete Professor of Physiology in 1940, he was increasingly active in administration and the rebuilding of laboratories at Oxford after the war.
In 1960 Liddell published a book/memoir, 'The Discovery of Reflexes,' detailing the history of ideas about the nervous system up through the exciting time of Sherrington's laboratory work.
The collection of Liddell's papers includes his unpublished degree thesis, 'The excitatory and inhibitory states in reflex activity,' as well as notebooks from his early school years through university. A later notebook contains Liddell's own detailed instructions for cat dissection with an emphasis on features of the nervous system. The collection also includes correspondence relating to the publication of his book 'The Discovery of Reflexes,' with notes and reminiscing from Sherrington's son Carr, D Denny-Brown, R S Creed, R Granit and other well-known names in the history of neurophysiology.