The death of Dr Leigh-Sodipe in his thirty-sixth year made his life and career the shortest among our pioneer doctors, but not the least in terms of productivity. In his short time he would take up a post as an Assistant Colonial Surgeon and also set up his own private practice.
Early Life and Education
The elder son of Consul and Mrs Leigh, Dr Leigh-Sodipe was born in Lagos State on 29 March 1865. After a brilliant school career at the Church Missionary Society Grammar School, Lagos, his parents sent him to England in 1881 to study medicine. He qualified at the College of Medicine, Newcastle-upon-Tyne by gaining the M.B. degree in Durham on 30 April 1892.
Following his time in England he returned to Lagos and set up a private practice, where he quickly gained friends and patients because of his charming and amiable disposition. In 1896, Leigh-Sodipe was appointed as Assistant Colonial Surgeon, with Dr. Oguntola Sapara, in the colonial medical service of Lagos. He served not only in Lagos, but also at Ibadan, Shaki (both in Oyo State, Badagry and Epe (both in Lagos).
In 1897 he married Sabina Thomas, the only daughter of the Hon. J. J. Thomas. Unfortunately their only child died in infancy. In 1893, he was godfather at the christening of Dr. Randle's son, Romanes Adewale.
Dr. Leigh-Sodipe developed a malignant fever while he was at Epe in 1901, and was rushed to the medical headquarters in Lagos, where he died at the Ereko Dispensary on 15 April 1901 from a fulminating hepatic abscess.
Leigh-Sodipe wrote his M.D. thesis on "The Relationship Between Nature and Medical Treatment with Special Reference to Native West African methods" and the University of Durham conferred the degree on him in absentia on 25 September 1897. In this work Leigh-Sodipe predicted that as intercommunication increased, the diseases of one region would inevitably extend to another. He raised our hopes that "whenever a disease is indigenous to any soil, the remedy is always at hand or not very far off". Finally, he stressed the importance of preventive measures: "It is better to prevent than to cure”. It was a policy that brings man back to the observation of the fundamental laws of Nature and is a very much needed aspect of modern medicine today in West Africa.
Professor Adelola Adeloye “Some Early Nigerian Doctors and Their Contribution to Modern Medicine in West Africa” Medical History, 1974, vol. 18, p. 274-293.
National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)
K. Akinsemoyin, 'Personalities of Old Lagos', Lagos Weekend, 31 October 1969, pp. 6, 11
Durham University Calendar, 1893.
P.R.O., C.O. 147, 30. Rayner to Chamberlain 9 March 1898.
Nigerian Pioneer, 10 December 1926.
Personal Communication with Jack Romanes Adewale Randle, Lagos, 12 September 1971.
C. J. Lumpkin, Lagos annual reports, Medical Report, Ereko Dispensary, 1901-1902.
A. Adeloye, African pioneers of modern medicine, Nigerian doctors of the nineteenth century, in press.
Durham University Calendar, 1898-9. See n.7