Dawson graduated from the University of Manchester in 1936, having already taken an MSc for research on nerve action potentials in 1933. In 1938 he became a researcher at MRI where he built an electro-encephalograph. In 1944 Dawson joined the Medical Research Council unit for nervous diseases, in 1961 he became head of clinical neurophysiology at the Institute of Psychiatry, and in 1966, professor of physiology at University College London. Dawson was particularly interested in the study of epilepsy.
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