Lives of the fellows

Charles Keith Johnstone Hamilton

b.17 April 1890 d.5 July 1978
MC(1916) BA Oxon(1913) MRCS LRCP(1920) BM BCh(1920) MRCP(1923) FRCP(1933)

Keith Hamilton was born at Laura, South Australia, the son of Charles Wolf Hamilton, medical practitioner, and his wife Sarah Henrietta, daughter of Alexander George Patton, also a medical practitioner. He was educated at Queen’s School, Adelaide, and Lincoln College, Oxford, where he took an honours degree in Natural Sciences. He then went to St Thomas’s Hospital, London, for his clinical studies.

On the outbreak of the 1914— 1918 war he joined King Edward’s Horse as a trooper, later getting a commission in the Royal Field Artillery. After being awarded the MC he was severely wounded, needing two laminectomy operations, and thereafter was forced to walk with the aid of two sticks.

He returned to St Thomas’s Hospital, qualifying in 1920, under very great physical handicap, and was then casualty officer and resident anaesthetist, house physician, and house physician to the children’s department; all at St Thomas’s Hospital. From 1923 he was house physician to the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street. He was John Temple research fellow at St Thomas’s, and published articles on Principles of infant nutrition (with KH Tallerman) and Heart disease in Childhood (with HB Russell). In 1925 he was appointed assistant physician to the Infants Hospital, Vincent Square, Westminster, and in 1927 physician to the children’s department at Charing Cross Hospital, and consultant paediatrician to the LCC.

Keith Hamilton was a man of medium height with black hair and dark, sunken eyes. His most obvious characteristics were his reticence and modesty. He rarely spoke at committees. He was vice-dean of Charing Cross Hospital for some years, and it was in personal relationships with students and junior members of staff where he was most helpful.

When the 1939— 1945 war broke out he insisted on being physician to Charing Cross Hospital itself, when it had a small staff in central London, most members of the staff being distributed around the Charing Cross sector. He and his wife lived at the hospital throughout the war including, of course, the period of heavy bombing. Those at the hospital will remember him walking quietly through the wards, a source of inspiration and courage to patients and staff.

Soon after the end of the war, Keith Hamilton resigned, was appointed honorary consulting physician to the children’s department, and went to live in Somerset on the edge of Exmoor. He gradually improved in strength, was able to take up riding again and even hunted. Hamilton was always a keen and expert horseman. When in the Royal Field Artillery he took great pride in training his men and horses and got together a famous team known as the Galloping Blacks. It was after an inspection of the Galloping Blacks that King George V sustained a bad fall from his horse, which resulted in some injuries, causing great anxiety at the time.

Hamilton used to ride through the moor to reach a car which would take him to Taunton, where he had started a fine children’s department in the Taunton and West Somerset Hospital. After the death of his wife in 1959, marking the end of a very happy marriage, he continued to live on his farm on Exmoor, looked after by a faithful man and wife.

An appreciation of Hamilton and his work in the Charing Cross Gazette, when he retired, ended with the words ‘He spoke little, but wrought mightily’.

RA Hickling

[Times, 8 July 1978;, 1978, 2, 507; Charing X Hosp. Gaz., Winter 1969/70, 67 (2)]

(Volume VII, page 243)

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