In memoriam: Henry Berry

Jan 25, 2021
Gyl Midroni

Henry BerryHenry Berry Dr. Henry Berry passed away December 8, 2020 at the age of 90. Henry was a graduate of the University of Toronto's Faculty of Medicine in 1954, a neurology resident in Toronto, and received his fellowship training as an academic registrar at the National Hospital at Queens Square from 1960-1962, as did so many of our neurologists of that era, where he studied both neurology and psychiatry. 

Henry came back to Toronto to a staff neurology position at St. Michael’s Hospital from 1963 to 1998. He was head of the St. Michael’s Hospital Division of Neurology from 1970 – 1976, and head of the Clinical Neurophysiology department, providing both EEG and EMG expertise, from 1970 to 1996. He was a skilled clinician, but also a scientist engaged in EEG, EMG, and Evoked Potential research as this field was developing. He had over 100 scientific publications and presentations to his name in a broad array of medical disciplines. With his psychiatry background he also had an interest in functional disorders, and in his later years he was the terror of head injury and whiplash plaintiff lawyers across Canada as he engaged in medicolegal work, making full use of his knowledge of both neurology and psychiatry. He was lecturing on this topic into his 8th decade at the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall law schools. 

Henry was the very definition of a Renaissance man. A brilliant wit, and extraordinarily skilled in the use of words, I remember sitting in Thursday rounds as a resident at St. Michael’s Hospital when, after everyone had said their peace on a particular issue, he would start to talk, offer his opinion, and in addition to the clinical pearls, he would offer such an erudite and grand response that he made us laugh at the same time as he taught; even as we were trying to figure out whether he was laughing with us, at us, or both. 

His interests ranged far outside of medicine, including: antique cars, which he repaired and maintained himself and in which he sometimes took colleagues out for a ride; photography (he had his own studio); woodworking; and an astonishing breadth of reading spanning philosophy, history, and literature that often left us behind as he offered a profound quote on one issue or another. 

To those of us who had the good fortune to know and work with him, Henry was the epitome of the erudite, educated, generous and humorous colleague. He was still working actively into his 9th decade and when I last met him a few years ago he seemed to be enjoying every moment. A life well lived.