Lives of the fellows

Dyce (Sir) Duckworth

b.24 November 1840 d.20 January 1928
BART(1909) MD Edin Hon LLD Edin Liverp Hon MD Belf RUI Cincinnati MRCS FRCP(1870) Hon FRCPI

Dyce Duckworth was born in Liverpool, the fourth son of Robinson Duckworth, merchant, and his wife Elizabeth Forbes, daughter of William Nicol, M.D, of Stonehaven, Kincardineshire. After leaving the Royal Institution School, he studied medicine, first at the Royal Infirmary Medical School, and then at Edinburgh University, qualifying in 1862. He worked on his M.D. thesis at Edinburgh, Liverpool, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London and at Oxford, and served as a resident in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. In 1864 he entered the Naval Medical Service and was posted to Stonehouse Hospital, Devonport, but a year later resigned his commission to become a medical tutor at St. Bartholomew’s. His first honorary appointment was to the Royal General Dispensary, but in 1869 he was elected to the St. Bartholomew’s staff as assistant physician. He was in charge of the skin department from 1870 to 1875 and lectured on medicine, jointly, from 1890 to 1901, having been made full physician in 1883. He retired to the consulting staff of St. Bartholomew’s in 1905, but continued active hospital work as physician to the Seamen’s Hospital, Greenwich, from that year until 1917. He was, in addition, a medical referee to the Treasury from 1905 to 1911.

For most of his career Duckworth was closely identified with the Royal College of Physicians. He was Lumleian Lecturer in 1896, Harveian Orator in 1898 and Senior Censor in 1903. But he is chiefly remembered for his long tenure of the office of Treasurer, from 1884 to 1923 — a period of relative financial instability for the College. From 1886 to 1901 he also represented the College on the General Medical Council, and he was an original manager of the Conjoint Examinations Board. He examined, at various times, for the Board, for the Universities of Edinburgh, Durham and Manchester, and for the Naval Medical Service. Duckworth, who was knighted in 1886 and created a baronet in 1909, acted as Honorary Physician to the Prince of Wales from 1890 to 1901.

A stickler for etiquette, Duckworth filled his many offices with an impressive, if sometimes pompous, dignity. That he was a physician of first-class ability was shown by his success in diagnosis by the older clinical methods, allied to painstaking thoroughness and a mature clinical "instinct". But, although he deplored the decline of the "art" of medicine, he recognised the contributions of medicine’s expanding ancillary sciences. His main written work was a Treatise on Gout (1889), embodying his own exhaustive clinical observations over a period of years. In politics, Duckworth was an extreme Tory, in religion a High Church Anglican. Hostile to change in general, he opposed in no uncertain terms such developments as the emancipation of women, the relaxed observance of Sundays, and modern trends in art, music, dancing and fashion.

He married, firstly, in 1870 Annie Alicia, daughter of Alexander Hopkins of Limavady, Antrim, and widow of John Smith, East India merchant, of Dorking, by whom he had a son and two daughters; and, secondly, in 1890 Ada Emily, daughter of George Arthur Fuller of Dorking, by whom he had two sons. He died in London.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1928; B.M.J., 1928; St. Bart.'s Hospital Reports, 1929, lxii, 18; D.N.B., 1922-30, 274]

(Volume IV, page 179)

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