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Dr Bedford Pierce was born in Manchester in 1861, the son of Edmund Kell Pierce and his wife, Elizabeth Tyler. He studied medicine at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Physicians in 1890.
He worked at Bethlem Royal Hospital and Edinburgh Royal Asylum before his appointment as Medical Superintendent at The Retreat Hospital in York, in 1892, a psychiatric hospital set up by the Society of Friends (of which Dr Pierce was also a member). He remained in the post until 1922.
His own consulting practice began in the 1890s and was extended after the Retreat gave him permission to open consulting rooms at 22 Park Place (from 1906 at 6 Park Square), Leeds, where he attended on Tuesday and Friday afternoons.
Pierce was particularly interested in improving the training and status of psychiatric nurses and it was under his direction that a new nurses' home was established in York. He also served as a lecturer on mental diseases at the University of Leeds. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1905 and served as President of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association and Chair of the Section of Psychiatry of the Royal Society of Medicine. He was also an associate member of the Société médico-psychologique in Paris.
Pierce married Mary Isabella 'Bella' Hamilton in 1890 and the couple had two children together. Their daughter, Dr Marjorie Garrod, followed her father into the medical profession. She later became a governor of The Retreat and in 1966 she co-authored 'A History of the Retreat' with J. Arthur Taylor.
Dr Pierce retired in 1922. In 1930-1931 he was made a temporary member of the Board of Control for Lunacy and Mental Deficiency.
He died on 8 July 1932.