Lives of the fellows

Kenneth Leslie Grant Goldsmith

b.15 August 1920 d.3 July 1976
MRCS LRCP(1943) MB BS Lond(1943) PhD(1959) MRCP(1969) FRCP(1976) MRCPath(1963)

Kenneth Goldsmith, who came of Scottish forebears, was born in Orpington, Kent, the son of Leslie Harold Goldsmith, a teacher, and Lillus Jane, daughter of William Grant. He attended the Roan School for Boys, Greenwich, whence, with a London County Council senior county exhibition (medical), he entered King’s College, University of London, in 1939 and spent the years 1941 to 1943 at the Westminster Hospital Medical School. Because of the war, the student body was dispersed, and Goldsmith received part of his medical undergraduate instruction in Glasgow and Birmingham.

After qualifying, he was house physician at the South Middlesex EMS and Fever Hospital 1943 — 1944, and deputy medical superintendent of this hospital 1944—1946. He did national service as a flight lieutenant in the RAF Medical Service, 1946-1948. Upon demobilization he became supernumerary registrar, department of pathology, Westminster Hospital, 1948-1949. He then served as registrar in the hospital’s blood transfusion department from 1949 to 1951.

It was in this post that his interest was awakened in blood transfusion generally and, in particular, the relationship of blood groups to anthropology. From 1951 to 1955 he was senior registrar in the blood transfusion department, Westminster Hospital, and senior hospital medical officer from 1955 to 1960. During the latter appointment, he was awarded the degree of PhD (London) in 1959 for a thesis on ‘The blood groups of Somali tribes, with special reference to anthropology’. This was one of the first studies on the blood groups of the Somalis, the field work for which he did himself in what was then British Somaliland.

In 1960 Goldsmith joined the staff of the Medical Research Council Blood Group Reference Laboratory. He became deputy director in 1962 and succeeded AE Mourant FRCP FRS, as director in 1965. During the period 1960 to 1965, Kenneth Goldsmith consolidated his reputation and established himself as an expert blood group serologist.

The Blood Group Reference Laboratory, one of the two central laboratories of the National Blood Transfusion Service, was the first laboratory of its kind. In addition to being the national reference point for all blood group serological problems submitted by regional transfusion centres and hospital pathology laboratories, it prepared blood grouping sera for the regional transfusion centres from human sera they supplied, and undertook the preparation of certain blood grouping reagents in animals. In the early 1950’s the laboratory had assumed, at the request of the World Health Organization, the responsibilities of acting as the WHO International Blood Group Reference Laboratory.

Goldsmith thus became director of an already active laboratory with a wide range of responsibilities. Under his directorship the laboratory extended the scope of its work. He introduced new techniques, and shortly before he died he and his staff assumed an active role in organizing quality control applied to blood group serology in regional transfusion centres and hospital laboratories. The very high quality characterizing hospital transfusion and ante-natal serology in Britain owes much to the standards expected - and exacted - by the Blood Group Reference Laboratory. In August 1975 the laboratory assumed an additional responsibility when it was designated the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference on the use of Anti-D immunoglobulin for the prevention of Rh-sensitization in pregnant women.

One of his constant objects was to raise and maintain the standard of blood group serology, viewed in its widest context. Consequently many of his publications were concerned with the preparation and quality of blood grouping reagents and the quality control of red cell grouping technique, including, particularly, the importance of the use of standard reference preparations of haemagglutinins. A paper, written jointly with RA Kekwick FRS and JM Jones and entitled ‘The Influence of Polymers on the Efficacy of Serum Albumin as a Potentiator of "Incomplete" Rh Agglutinins’ (Nature 1969; 224: 510) was important because it contained the first report of a possible basis for this potentiating effect of albumin, although the effect had been reported some 20 years before.

Kenneth Goldsmith quickly appreciated the practical importance of the Gm-groups in blood group serology: three important papers are Brazier,DM, Goldsmith,KLG, Gunson,HH and Loghem,Evan, ‘The first human example of anti-Gm (17): Gm(Z)’, Vox Sang 1971,21,558; Brazier,DM and Goldsmith,KLG, ‘Frequency of certain Gm and Inv factors in UK’ Nature, 1968,219,193; and Simmons,M, Stapleton,RR, Brazier,DM and Goldsmith,KLG, ‘An example of an anti-antibody causing difficulty in ABO grouping’, Vox Sang 1971, 21,284.

Pre-eminent among his other interests was teaching. He lectured frequently: he devoted much time to preparing his material and his lectures were carefully organized and clearly delivered. One result of this interest was that many of his publications were reviews of different aspects of transfusion. He acted as chairman or secretary of several Medical Research Council and DHSS working parties, and was chairman of the joint albumin working party of the International Society of Blood Transfusion and the International Committee for Standardization in Haematology.

Goldsmith was an ideal man to direct the activities of the Blood Group Reference Laboratory. He was an internationally recognized expert in blood group serology: he had abundant energy and enthusiasm and was always cheerful and imperturbable, even when facing problems which would daunt most. He was immediately ready to help anyone who brought him a problem. He never spared himself and was usually accessible at any hour of the day or night. He inspired the devotion of his staff, of whom he demanded much, yet in such a friendly, unassuming and unselfish way that the laboratory was a very happy one. He will also be remembered with particular affection by the many doctors and technicians who came to his laboratory to be trained, many of them from parts of Africa and the Far East, which he had visited on behalf of WHO.

He gave the impression of being a man who had found for himself a niche in professional life for which he was ideally suited. He had several hobbies - photography, bird watching, gardening and, in particular, horology and radio.

He married in 1950 Pamela Aileen, daughter of Paymaster Commander Thomas Moffatt Fitzgerald, RN(Ret) of Seaford, Sussex, and formerly a sister at the Westminster Hospital. They had two sons, and later adopted two Chinese orphan girls from Hong Kong.

Sir William Maycock

[, 1976, 2, 308; Lancet, 1976, 2, 212]

(Volume VII, page 212)

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