Papers of: Dent, Charles Enrique (1911-1976)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The vast majority of the material relates to Dent's research and clinical interests and falls into four main categories: correspondence files; files created around the publication of papers; lecture notes and symposium papers; and case/research notes. There are also smaller quantities dealing with other aspects of his career, such as the administration of UCH Metabolic Ward. The papers thus reflect most of Dent's scientific and clinical interests. This research is mainly represented by the abstracted documentation which he kept with drafts of his published papers (see section E.1) and also by correspondence about cases and clinical case notes (see section C.5). To a lesser degree they also illustrate the work at the laboratory bench which underpinned much of this research. For example, a file of unidentified paper chromatograms has been preserved (C.2/10) to illustrate one of Dent's methods of working, as described by his colleague, Heathcote, and quoted in the Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society , 1978: 'Paper chromatograms were not to be thrown away. They were filed and, since the colours faded, the outline of each spot was drawn in and the intensity of the colour was indicated by a number.' The way in which Dent compiled a large series of files around drafts of scientific papers also illustrates the importance of the published paper to him as a stage in the research process. An incomplete collection of reprints of Dent's published papers may be found in section E.2 of the collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Enrique Dent was born in 1911. Having begun his scientific career as a chemist, Dent qualified in medicine in 1944 and then began to work on disorders of amino-acid metabolism, being an early pioneer of the technique of paper chromatography for the analysis of body fluids. He developed both chromatographic and chemical tests for metabolic disorders and was instrumental in defining a number of new amino acid diseases. Another associated early interest was in metabolic bone diseases such as rickets and osteomalacia. These concerns broadened over his career to include the cause and treatment of many conditions such as hyperparathyroidism, renal stone formation, sarcoidosis and various malabsorption syndromes. A continuing interest in genetics accompanied the study and treatment of all these conditions as many were shown to be hereditary. Several are also associated with mental deficiency.

An outline of Dent's life follows: 1911: born in Burgos, Spain (family normally resident in Singapore); 1915: family moved to England. Educated at Bedford School and Wimbledon College (exact dates unknown); 1927: left school to work in a bank; subsequently left, obtained a post as a laboratory technician and studied at evening classes at Regent Street Polytechnic; 1930: became a Chemistry student at Imperial College, London; 1931/2: BSc, Chemistry; 1934: PhD on copper phthalocyanin (later marketed by ICI as 'Monastral Blue'); Went to work for ICI Dyestuffs Group in Manchester; 1937: entered Univeristy College, London, as a medical student; 1939-1945: war service in France and as a consultant in chemistry in the scientific department of British censorship (as a specialist in secret writing), including service in Bermuda and the USA; 1943: awarded FRIC; 1944: qualified in medicine and became house physician to Sir Thomas Lewis at UCL; Married Margaret Ruth Coad; 1945: became Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians. Appointed Assistant to the Medical Unit at UCH Medical School under Sir Harold Himsworth; Went to the recently liberated concentration camp at Belsen as part of the MRC study group; studied the treatment of starvation by amino-acid mixtures; 1946-1947: Rockefeller scholarship - studied in Rochester, NY, USA. Post-war research, initially in the field of amino-acid metabolism. Pioneer in the field of partition chromatography for the study of biological fluids. Developed methods of random testing for metobolic disorders; Defined new amino-acid diseases such as various forms of Fanconi syndrome, Hartnup disease, argininosuccinic aciduria and homocystinuria; 1949: awarded MD; 1951: persuaded University College Hospital, London, to establish a metabolic ward with beds, laboratories and outpatient clinics. Appointed Reader in medicine. Research interests broadened to include the study of clinical disorders of calcium and phosphorus metabolism, vitamin D deficiency and the action of parathyroid; increasing emphasis on the clinical side of his work, rather than laboratory science; 1954: became Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians; 1956: appointed Professor of Human Metabolism; 1962: appointed Fellow of the Royal Society; 1976: awarded CBE. Died, September.


The collection is divided into sections as follows: A: Correspondence (comprising A: 1, General correspondence, and A: 2, Themed correspondence). B: Official posts and activities (comprising B.1, UCH Medical School, and B.2, Other). C: Research and clinical records (comprising C.1, Rat experiments; C.2, Experimental notes; C.3, Research projects and subject files; C.4, Diaries; and C.5, Case files). D: Lectures, conferences and visits. E: Published papers (comprising E.1, Drafts and supporting material, and E.2, Reprints). On arrival the papers fell into four main categories: correspondence files; files created around the publication of papers; lecture notes and symposium papers; and case/research notes. Although on arrival the papers were not exclusively arranged according to these categories, sufficiently large quantities were found to be grouped together along such lines that this justified the choice of these for the final arrangement of the collection, and any unsorted files were amalgamated with the main sequences during cataloguing. Almost all the papers were found to be in clearly marked files and these have been kept intact. All file titles in the list are original, unless indicated by the use of square brackets. Dent organised his papers using his numerous published papers, 1945-1976, as a framework and a list of these is available at the Wellcome Library.

Conditions Governing Access

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, by prior appointment with Archives and Manuscripts staff and after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking. Please note that access to several files (marked in the detailed list) is restricted. Readers wishing for access to such material may submit a formal application form to Archives and Manuscript staff.

Acquisition Information

These papers were presented to the Library in 1983 (acc.128).

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued by Jennifer Smith, Contemporary Medical Archives Centre, Wellcome Library, August 1995.

Archivist's Note

Original catalogue compiled by Jennifer Smith; this description compiled by Christopher Hilton.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.