Personal and professional papers of William Blair-Bell (the 'Datnow Papers')

Scope and Content

Personal and professional papers of Professor William Blair-Bell, including papers relating to his cancer research work and use of lead colloid as a treatment, his involvement in cancer campaigns and the Liverpool Medical Research Organisation, the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Empire Publishing Company and the British congresses of obstetrics and gynaecology, the management of the nursing home and practice in Rodney Street, Liverpool, and of his rented country estate near Oswestry, his membership of the Council of Rossal School, Preston, at which he was a pupil, the early days of the British College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and other personal matters such as the memorial to his wife in the church of St Chad's Haughton, Shropshire.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Blair-Bell (1871-1936) was co-founder (with William Fletcher Shaw) of the College and its first President. The second son of William and Helen Bell, he was born in Wallasey in 1871 and educated at Rossall School, King's College London and King's College Hospital. In 1905 he left general practice in Wallasey and was appointed to the post of Assistant Consultant Gynaecologist to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary. In 1918 he became senior surgeon and in 1921 was appointed to the Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Liverpool University, a position he held until 1931. In 1929 he married his cousin, Florence.

Blair-Bell was President of the Obstetric Section of the Royal Society of Medicine and of the North of England Gynaecological Society and the Liverpool Medical Institution. In 1911 he founded the Gynaecological Visiting Society (GVS). He was co-founder of the College in 1929 and presented the College with its first headquarters at 58 Queen Anne Street. He established the money for the William Blair-Bell memorial lectures and for other research projects. He was President of the College from its inception until 1935, the year before his death.

Morris Myer Datnow (1901-1962), was born in South Africa and trained at Cape Town University. He completed his medical training in Liverpool, where he became a member of the Liverpool university staff in 1925. There he served successively as Ethel Boyce research fellow, Samuels memorial scholar, demonstrator and sub-curator of the museum and lecturer in clinical obstetrics and gynaecology. He was appointed to the staff of the Women's Hospital, Liverpool, the Liverpool Maternity Hospital and the Royal Southern Hospital. He was married with two children.

Morris Datnow became closely associated with William Blair-Bell in the research work which was going on at that time in the department, and was one of the team undertaking basic research into the nature of cancer and the place of chemotherapy in its treatment. He was to become a close friend of Blair-Bell's and was elected to deliver the third Blair-Bell Memorial Lecture in 1940 at the RCOG (bibliography: see Sir John Peel, Lives of the Fellows, pp 124-125)


The collection was recatalogued between January and September 2012, and a composite arrangement imposed upon the files in order to facilitate access and to coordinate with the papers at S1 and S14.

Access Information

Open to researchers by appointment, Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. mailto:

Other Finding Aids

Full file descriptions are available from the College Archivist.

Archivist's Note

Catalogued by Penny Hutchins in October 2012

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is vested in the estate of Morris Datnow and William Blair-Bell.

Reproductions are available at the discretion of the College Archivist.

Custodial History

These papers were left by William Blair-Bell in his consulting rooms in Rodney Street, Liverpool, and found when the rooms were taken over by Morris Datnow in 1936. They should be studied in conjunction with the papers at reference S1, as it is believed that the two collections were originally part of one collection of papers, separated by accident or theft. The papers were deposited by the M M Datnow Will Trust at the RCOG in 1988 as a permanent loan. A further deposit of papers which were considered by the Archivist in 1988 to be outside the collecting remit, were accepted in 2011 under a new Collections Development Policy. The additional papers can be found at reference S10/7 and overlap the papers at the preceding references.

Related Material

Related material in the Archive of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists includes the following references:

RCOG/B6/6 - Librarian's papers on the College acquisition of two collections of Blair Bell papers

S33 - Blair-Bell's unpublished history of the British College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

RCOG/A4/1 - Records of William Blair-Bell as President of the RCOG

Other records relating to the Liverpool Medical Research Organisation are held at the University of Liverpool.