Dr Muriel Morley

Dr Muriel Morley: At a time when many people still confused speech therapy with elocution training, Dr Muriel Morley achieved the feat of establishing the former as a subject for university research and education. In 1959 she founded Britain's first University Department of Speech. This was at King's College of the University of Durham , soon to become the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Born in Halifax in 1899, Muriel Morley came to her chosen field of speech therapy with a degree in Physics and Biology and a certificate in Education, and from a background of secondary school teaching which had been curtailed through ill-health. In 1932 she responded to an unusual advertisement. A Newcastle Plastic Surgeon had devised a new type of pharyngoplasty for cleft palate and was seeking an "educated woman"' who could assess the children's speech before and after surgery. The work fascinated her; she became an expert photographer within a month and read everything she could find on cleft palate and its management. The next five years were a turning point; the lessons she learnt were set down in her first book Cleft Palate and Speech, and she had discovered her profession.

In order to broaden her experience of the variety of speech and language disorders, she trained as a speech therapist by working with colleagues in Liverpool and London over the next few months, and gained the Diploma of the then British Society of Speech Therapists in 1938. By 1945 she was working full-time as a speech therapist in Newcastle's three hospitals, with a varied case-load that included a number of men who had become aphasic from war-time head injuries. At this time she became one of the founders of the College of Speech Therapists (later to become its President, and the editor of its academic journal).

One of her major research studies, with colleagues in Child Health, Neurology and Statistics, was of the speech and language of a sample of 847 children in Newcastle, recorded at ages 3, 4, 6 and 15. The results of the first three of these assessments were published in 1957 as Development and Disorders of Speech in Childhood.

In 1959 the Government and Opposition of the day decided to bring a number of disciplines, of which speech therapy was one, under a Bill for Professions Supplementary to Medicine. Dr Morley instantly saw the threat which this offered to the youthful profession. With representatives of the College of Speech Therapists, she called on the responsible minister and told him that speech therapy could not be described as supplementary to any other profession and that academic study in this field was vital for the service of people with speech and language disorders. A national referendum of speech therapists followed, the profession stood firm and, despite government anger, they were removed from the Bill.

Dr Morley travelled widely in the English-speaking world as a visiting professor, and was made an Honorary Member of the American Cleft Palate Association. More than any other experience, these visits established the twin pillars of her professional philosophy: language and speech must be studied and taught in universities, with studies of pathology based on a sound knowledge of normal behaviours, and academic excellence must be complemented by the highest standards of clinical work.

In 1980 she received the OBE in acknowledgement of her pioneering work in research and education in speech therapy. In an appreciation of her work in a 1984 commemoration of the 25th anniversary of her founding of the university department, her former colleague, Donald Court, Professor of Child Health, wrote:

"What fuelled and directed this remarkable woman? She was certainly impatient with the small mind and the myopic vision, and became restless, even stubborn, when she felt that important issues were being evaded. Can we explain her energy, tenacity, vision, openness to new ideas, love of learning? The answer lay in her unwavering belief in the value of her subject and an unyielding commitment to its practice at the highest level."

Ruth Lesser

Muriel Morley, born Halifax, 20 February 1899: educated at Halifax High School for Girls and Monkseaton High School: BSc in Physics and Biology Armstrong College, University of Durham, and Certificate in Education 1920; Diploma of the British Society of Speech Therapists 1938; D.Sc., King's College, University of Durham 1958; President of the College of Speech Therapists 1971; OBE 1980.

 

MURIEL ELIZABETH MORLEY DSc FCST (Hon): AN APPRECIATION

Muriel Morley comes from a Yorkshire family. Born in Halifax in 1899, she lived there until 1913 when her parents moved to Tyneside. She was educated, first at the Halifax High School for Girls and then at Monkseaton High School. In 1917 she entered Armstrong College, the Newcastle division of the University of Durham, and graduated in 1920 with a BSc in Physics and Biology. While studying for the degree, she obtained a Certificate in Education.

For the next ten years she taught physics to the fifth and sixth forms at the Church High School for Girls in Newcastle. At this stage, it looked as if she would fulfill W.H.Auden's prediction for women with her background "teaching science for life to progressive girls". This was too predictable for a woman of her temperament, and in 1930 she went to India. Captivated by the people and the culture this was one of the happiest times in her life. Unfortunately, she developed dysentery and after a year returned home. For the next eighteen months she remained unwell and uncertain about the future. She was rescued by doctors reaching the correct diagnosis, leading to appropriate treatment and returning health. An attempted return to teaching convinced her that this was not the way. In 1932 she responded to an unusual advertisement. William Wardill, a Newcastle Plastic Surgeon, had devised a new type of pharyngoplasty for cleft palate and was seeking "an educated woman", not an elocutionist, who would assess the children's speech before and after surgery. They proved compatible colleagues. The work fascinated her, she became an expert photographer inside the mouth and read everything she could find on cleft palate and its management. These five years were a turning point. The lessons were set down in her first book Cleft Palate and Speech and she had discovered her profession.

The variety of speech disorders referred to her increased and she knew she must train for the work. The professional development which followed has been described in the main text. Our concern is with the woman behind the achievements. Yet her professional commitment was so complete that sharp separation would be unreal.

She was primarily a clinician, yet living when she did she was inescapably involved in the professional development of the subject. In 1945 she was a founding fellow of the College of Speech Therapists, and between 1947 and 1963 served several three-year periods on the College Council. In 1971 she became the third President.

In 1959 the government and opposition of the day decided to bring a number of disciplines, of which speech therapy was one, under a Bill for Professions Supplementary to Medicine. Muriel Morley instantly saw the threat which this offered to the profession. With representatives of the College, she called on the responsible Minister and told him that speech therapy could not be described as supplementary to any other profession. A national referendum of speech therapists followed, the profession stood firm and, despite government anger, they were removed from the Bill. This threat to its integrity and independence was a serious threat to a young profession and had it not been removed the academic development of speech therapy would have been prevented, or long delayed.

Throughout her professional life, Muriel Morley was an omnivorous reader of books and journals, especially the American Journal of Speech Disorders to which she had subscribed since 1938. In 1966 she was invited to edit the College Journal. She was prepared, having felt for some time that it should move from a slim domestic publication to an international journal, welcoming overseas contributions and presenting the work of the profession to a wider public. Six years later when she was succeeded by Betty Byers Brown, the content had increased, the style improved and the circulation widened. A firm believer in the world responsibility of professions, she travelled widely: Australia, New Zealand, and between 1951 and 1970 five visits to the United States. On the last she visited nineteen universities and colleges where speech therapy was studied and taught, especially Michigan, Iowa, San Diego, Syracuse, Bloomington and Missoula. She began as a passing visitor, before the end she was an invited visiting professor. More than any other experience, these visits established the twin pillars of her professional philosophy: language and speech must be studied and taught in universities and academic excellence must be complemented by the highest standards of clinical work. In 1972 those principles were at the centre of the Quirk Committee's report. In 1981 she returned to her old department to share in the presentation of the prize which bears her name.

What fuelled and directed this remarkable woman? She was certainly impatient with the small mind and myopic vision, and became restless, even stubborn when she felt that important issues were being evaded. Can we explain her energy, tenacity, vision, openness to new ideas, love of learning? The answer lay in her unwavering belief in the value of her subject and an unyielding commitment to its practice at the highest level. Like Cromwell's soldiers, "She knew what she fought for and loved what she knew".

Donald Court

SOME OF MURIEL MORLEY'S PRINCIPAL PUBLICATIONS

BOOKS

Morley M (1945) Cleft Palate and Speech, Edinburgh: C & D Livingstone (7th edition 1970)
Morley M (1957) The Development and Disorders of Speech and Childhood, London: Churchill Livingstone. (3rd edition 1972)

PAPERS

Morley M Court D and Miller H (1950) Childhood speech disorders and the family doctor. British Medical Journal 1 574-578
Morley M Miller H (1950) Discussion on speech defects in children. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 43 579-588
Morley M Court D and Miller H (1954) Developmental dysarthria. British Medical Journal 1 8-14
Morley M Court D Miller H and Garside R (1955) Delayed speech and developmental aphasia. British Medical Journal 2 463-467
Morley M Court D (1958) Medicine and speech therapy. Lancet 1 1169-1171
Morley M (1960) Developmental receptive-expressive aphasia. Speech Pathology and Therapy 3 64
Morley M (1973) Receptive/expressive developmental aphasia: a case study. British Journal of Disorders of Communication 8 47-53

Dr Morley was Editor of the British Journal of Disorders of Communication from 1966 (when it was first published under that name) to 1972. She was made an Honorary Member of the American Cleft-Palate Association. She was awarded the Honours of the College of Speech Therapists in 1979. In 1980 she received the OBE.

 

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