Leonard Bell Cox, neurologist and art collector, was born on August 29, 1894, at Prahran.
He was the fifth child of the Rev. Edward Thomas Cox (1852–1930) and his English wife Isabella, née
Leonard Cox was educated at
Following a brief residency at the
Admitted that year as a member of the Royal College of Physicians in
On December 23, 1925, at St Andrew’s Church of England,
Struggling to establish a consultant practice in neurology, Cox supplemented his income by working as an anesthetist. At the same time he pursued his interests in neuro-pathology and research.
From 1932–51 he was honorary part-time lecturer in neurological pathology at the university and in 1937 Stewart lecturer.
As honorary neurologist to the
Their pioneering professional and intellectual partnership was the first of its kind in
Throughout his years at the
His lectures in the medical faculty were fully attended and students received a synopsis of each lecture. He was a superb teacher who had the gift of perceiving the problem from the history, and his examination of the patient went straight to the point.
To Cox, the basis of clinical medicine came from an understanding of pathology and anatomy.
In World War II he was a part-time neurologist with the Royal Australian Air Force and rose to acting wing commander. The initiator and one of eight founding members of the Australian Association of Neurologists, he was its foundation president (1950–62).
Early in life Cox had become an art collector.
He made his first purchase — a Battersea enamel box bought on a sudden impulse from a second-hand dealer — in 1917 while he was stationed on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.
A fellow officer, a collector of Chinese art, encouraged him to view the Oriental antiquities in the
In 1937, the collection of H. W. Kent, which had been assembled in
Although Chinese art was his major delight, he had also acquired prints, Australian paintings, a collection of rare books, woodcuts by old and modern masters, and samples of English eighteenth and early nineteenth-century cabinet-making.
Nothing, however, surpassed his collection of Chinese ceramics, which was held to be the finest private collection in the country and made him internationally known.
In 1953 a Rockefeller grant for medical research made possible a world trip on which Cox contacted many notable private collectors. He was a member of a cultural delegation to
In 1947, Cox had helped to establish the National Gallery Society of Victoria (of which he was president in 1952).
He was chairman of the trustees of the gallery (1957–65), and of the National Gallery and Cultural Center committee (1957–64), which advised the government on the whole
In 1958 he was appointed a member of the Felton Bequest committee.
When the new gallery was being designed, he partly withdrew from medical practice to devote more time and effort to the detailed planning.
In 1970 he published a big history, The National Gallery of Victoria 1861 to 1968 (Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1970). The prose style is admittedly dry, and the text over-long, but the treatment of his subject is as exhaustive and thorough as one would expect from an eminent clinical neurologist; the trustees’ decision to entrust him with this project was imaginative.
For his contribution to culture and to the N.G.V. he was appointed C.M.G. in 1968. The gallery invited him in 1972 to mount a special exhibition of his own collection; the catalog was entitled Hundred Treasures.
Subsequently, the Felton trustees purchased a blue-and-white stem cup in his honor. He retired in 1965.
In 1962 Cox had moved with his wife to the family cottage at
He helped to form the
Acknowledgment: A.D.B., with corrections. See also P. F. Bladin, M. J. Eadie, and V. Wehner, “Leonard Bell Cox (1894–1976) – Pioneer of Australian Clinical Neurology,” Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, Vol. 11, No. 8, November 2004, pp. 819–824. Photograph c. 1953, by the clinical neuropathologist Dr. Webb Haymaker, of the U.S. Armed Services Institute of Pathology,