- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 19, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) — Dr. William G. Speed III, whose lifelong study of headaches was prompted by a migraine he suffered while an undergraduate student, has died at age 87 of congestive heart failure.

Dr. Speed, who died Tuesday, became interested in the field while an undergraduate at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., when he awoke one morning in severe pain and was told he was suffering a migraine.

In an autobiographical sketch, Dr. Speed recalled being annoyed by a doctor who seemed to know little about headaches.

“He treated the whole situation rather cavalierly,” Dr. Speed wrote. “‘Hey, you had a headache — so what!’”

Dr. Speed, born and raised in Baltimore, knew from age 8 that he wanted to become a doctor. He was a 1936 graduate of McDonogh School.

While Dr. Speed was earning his medical degree at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, senior physicians there knew he had studied medical literature about headaches and sought his advice. When he went into practice in 1947, those physicians began to refer patients to him.

When he began practicing, headaches were commonly attributed to stress, tension, nerves or anxiety. However, Dr. Speed said those reasons didn’t seem to apply to many of his patients. His belief that there was an organic explanation for headaches was later proven to be correct.

He was a founding member of what is now the American Headache Society and served as its president from 1986 to 1988. In 1989, the group presented him with its Distinguished Clinician Award.

“Bill Speed pioneered the differential diagnosis of chronic headache, an extremely complicated field that few were willing to take on,” said Dr. Richard Starr Ross, a cardiologist and former dean of the Hopkins School of Medicine.

Dr. Speed was an associate professor of medicine at the Hopkins Medical School and for 54 years was on the staff of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He retired in 2002.

He outlived two wives. Margaret Turner Speed, his wife of five years, died in July. Jean LaVine Speed, to whom he was married for 51 years, died in 1998.

Survivors include two sons, William G. Speed IV of Rocky Hill, Conn., and David M. Speed of Barrington, R.I.; a daughter, Leslie B. Speed of Baltimore; a brother, C. MacNair Speed of Stevensville; three stepsons; four stepdaughters and four grandchildren.

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