Graham Steell

Graham Steell (1851- 1942)

Graham Steell (1851- 1942) was a Scottish physician and cardiologist.

Steell published extensive research and textbooks on fevers and cardiology. He is eponymously associated with the Graham Steell murmur (1888) of pulmonary incompetence caused by pulmonary hypertension.

He was the first to describe the association of oedema and peripheral neuropathy in chronic beer drinkers and in patients with beri-beri, which was later identified as a result of thiamine deficiency. Steell also observed the association between pericarditis and angina pectoris, which was documented before coronary occlusion was known

He is remembered for his excellence in correlating clinical signs and physiology, passionate bedside teaching, illegible notes, and brevity of speech.


  • Born 27 July 1851, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Educated at the Edinburgh Academy. Originally he wanted to be a soldier, but was persuaded into medicine by his brother.
  • 1872 – Achieved M.B. from Edinburgh University
  • 1873 –House-physician to George Balfour at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, who sparked Steell’s interest in cardiology
  • 1874-77 – Practiced at several fever hospitals in Edinburgh, Leeds and London
  • 1877 – Awarded M.D. with gold medal for his thesis ‘On scarlatina’ from the University of Edinburgh, which described patients scarlet, enteric and typhus fevers.
  • 1878 – Resident medical officer at Manchester Royal Infirmary, where he was constantly on call and lived in the hospital
  • 1883 – Honorary assistant physician to the Manchester Royal Infirmary and conducted extensive research into fevers.
  • 1888 – Contracted Tuberculosis, but recovered after several months leave
  • 1889 – Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians
  • 1907 – Elected chair of clinical medicine, Manchester Royal Infirmary
  • 1911– Retired from the Royal Infirmary and university chair of clinical medicine
  • Died 10 January 1942, Streatham Common, England. He was noted to have maintained his passion for medicine right up until his death.

Medical Eponyms

Graham Steell murmur (1888)

Soft, blowing, decrescendo early diastolic murmur of pulmonary incompetence caused by pulmonary hypertension

The murmur of high pressure in the pulmonary artery was described in an address to the Manchester Medical Society and was later published in the Medical Chronicle in 1888. The murmur was detected with a monaural stethoscope made of box wood, with a bell-shaped earpiece. The significance of the heart muscle and alterations in the valve in the production of abnormal signs on auscultation were emphasized.

Notable Quotables

In regards to the emergence of many new technologies in medicine:

Clinical medicine seems to me at the present moment to be in danger of losing something of its old charm, and in the future of losing much more

In relation to oedema:

 Capricious distribution of dropsy is especially apt to occur in cases of the cardiac muscle-failure of beer-drinkers and of the disease known as beri-beri, of both of which diseases, it is curious to note,peripheral neuritis is a clinical feature. . .  Curious special localizations of oedema met with, in cases of the kind, have been the scrotum, and together the upper trunk, upper extremities, and scalp and neck, so that the oedema simulates that resulting from mediastinal tumour

This type of heart failure is currently understood to be due to thiamine deficiency

Major Publications


eponymictionary CTA


the person behind the name

Doctor in Australia. Keen interest in internal medicine, medical education, and medical history.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.