One of my many hobbies is collecting military decorations and because of my family connections to Cheshire, where I grew up, I have a particular interest in collecting military medals from the Cheshire regiment. I receive regular catalogues from Brian Simpkin at Dix, Noonan & Webb in London and, to my surprise, I discovered that Henry Dale’s decorations were being auctioned. Although as a pharmacologist, I recognize the significance of a Nobel Laureate’s medals, there were personal connections that drew my interest. For the past 30 years I have been friendly with Dale’s grandson, Alexander ( Sandy) Todd from the early days of tamoxifen when he worked at ICI Pharmaceuticals in Cheshire. Sandy went to school at the Leys in Cambridge, as did my father, his three brothers, and Sir Henry Dale. I should just mention that Dale’s daughter married the Nobel Prize winning chemist, Alexander Todd (affectionately known as Lord Todd Almighty) so Sandy, himself an accomplished chemist, is the product of two lines of Nobel Laureates!

Unfortunately, I had lost track of Sandy as he is now retired from the pharmaceutical industry, and the other complicating factor was that I was moving my laboratory to the Fox Chase Cancer Center. With this change of venue came unanticipated personal expenses. I decided there was little possibility that I could secure Dale’s decorations but I was increasingly concerned that they would be lost to our Society’s history, especially since Dale was a founding member and this is our 75 th Anniversary Year. About six months after the auction was complete, I decided to contact Brian Simpkin to propose a private sale of Dale’s decorations but I was disappointed to hear nothing from the anonymous collector. Suddenly, I received a letter telling me that there was a remote possibility that I could acquire Dale’s decorations if I was willing to provide the financial resources for the collector to acquire a new Knight’s Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) that was coming up for auction at Dix, Noonan and Webb. All of these arrangements were successful and Dale’s decorations have been rediscovered and remounted in display cabinets in my office at the Fox Chase Cancer Center. I am happy for the BPS to have them on loan if the occasion arises.

Fortunately, I have been able to track down Sandy Todd and remarkably, the family has never seen their grandfather’s awards because, during World War II, Sir Henry Dale chose to auction off all of his medals as he strongly felt that it was his duty to use the money to buy war bonds. Thus it seems that this invaluable piece of pharmacological history has circulated in the medals collector community for the past 60 years. Sandy and the family have arranged a private viewing; a happy occasion that deserves champagne.

V Craig Jordan
Vice-President & Research Director for Medical Sciences, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, USA


Henry Hallett Dale (1875-1968) had an extraordinary career in pharmacology. From 1904 to 1914 he was Director of the Wellcome Physiological Research Laboratories and during World War I he was Director of the newly founded National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).

He returned to the NIMR as Director between 1928 and 1942 and in 1936, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology in Medicine.


Dale was President of the Royal Society (1940-45) and Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the War Cabinet (1942-47). Dale’s distinguished career was recognized by a grateful nation with his appointment as CBE in 1919, Knight Bachelor, 1932 and OM in 1934, the year after he had been created a GBE.

The Medals Awarded to Sir Henry Dale

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire GBE (Civil) Knight Grand Cross comprising sash-badge (silver-gilt and enamel) and breast star (silver, with silver-gilt and enamel centre), Knight Bachelor’s Badge (London, 1926), Jubilee Medal 1935, Coronation Medal 1937, Coronation Medal 1953 (below: a set of miniature dress medals); Royal Society of Arts ‘Gold’ Albert medal, silver-gilt, the edge engraved ‘Awarded to Sir Henry Dale, OM, GBE, MD, FRS, For Eminent Service to Science, Particularly Physiology, 1956; and another Medical Society silver-gilt Prize Medal, the reverse inscribed ‘Vivo Clarissimo Henry H. Dale de Physiologia et Pharmacologia Optimo Merito’