Lives of the fellows

Cyril Arthur Keele

b.23 November 1905 d.22 October 1987
MRCS LRCP(1927) MB BS Lond(1928) MRCP(1929) MD(1930) FRCP(1948) FFARCS(1958)

Cyril Keele, who was to become professor of pharmacology in the University of London, was the second son of Dr David Keele and his wife Jessie. Three of their sons followed their father into medicine: one became a general practitioner and another, Kenneth Keele (q.v.) who died some five months before his brother Cyril, was a distinguished consultant physician and medical historian who made valuable contributions to historical studies of Leonardo da Vinci and William Harvey.

Cyril went to Epsom College, obtained a scholarship and went on to the Middlesex Hospital where he fell under the spell of Samson Wright [Munk's Roll Vl.V.,p.463]. After qualifying in 1928 he held house appointments at the Middlesex and the Brompton, and was RMO at the Royal Masonic Hospital. He returned to the Middlesex in 1930 to hold the medical registrarship of George Ward [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.449] and Evan Bedford [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.28].

At the Middlesex Cyril undertook a large scale clinical study of the heart in hypertensive patients, which whetted his appetite for research, and in 1933 he became demonstrator in physiology, succeeding Michael Kremer (q.v.). He developed pure and applied physiology and gave an increasing number of pharmacology lectures backed by clinical demonstrations. The advent of pharmacology was heralded by the University of London instituting an examination in applied pharmacology and therapeutics in the third MB BS. With enthusiasm, Samson Wright advocated the establishment of a new department of pharmacology and Cyril became lecturer in 1938 - but still in the same room!

During the war Cyril accompanied the department to Bristol, then back to the Middlesex, and afterwards to Leeds for two years. He taught pharmacology ‘...to preclinical and clinical students wherever they happened to be.’ As clinical students were at the Middlesex, Central Middlesex, Mount Vernon and Tindall House at Aylesbury - as well as Leeds - this entailed giving his lectures and demonstrations in quadruplicate.

After the war he was given a laboratory and three rooms at the Middlesex and then things ‘took off. He was joined by Arnold Burgen, whose rise to fame is well known. But Arnold went to McGill in 1948 as professor of physiology, returning in 1962 to become professor of pharmacology at Cambridge. In 1971 he became head of the National Institute for Medical Research and later Master of Darwin College. Keele once wrote that Burgen was the brightest student he had ever had.

Keele, together with David Slome, produced a technique for measuring renal blood flow. Later, in 1948, working with Hewer, and his brother Kenneth, he developed an interest in ‘pain-producing substances’. He was appointed reader in pharmacology in 1948 and professor in 1962. The department had been strengthened by the appointment of Franz Hobbiger who came from Vienna for a year in 1948 but fortunately stayed on, succeeding Cyril as professor in 1968. Desirée Armstrong began in 1961 and devoted herself to the ‘PPS’ with Theo Chalmers (q.v.) and others.

In 1951 Keele and his team introduced the technique of the blister base for the subjective assessment of pain in man. These results are given in the Physiological Society monograph Substances producing pain and itch, C A Keele and Desiree Armstrong, London, Arnold, 1964. This monograph was substantiated by Rocha de Silva of Brazil and John Margolis of Oxford and Sydney, both having come to the UK and worked with the team. They demonstrated that PPS was formed by a two-stage process analogous to that which leads to the clotting of plasma which contacts glass. Keele became FFARCS in 1958.

At this time Cyril was much involved in speaking in symposia abroad. He was also responsible for the organization and editorship of the International Symposium on the assessment of pain, published in 1961. His lectures were appreciated in Europe, the United States, Singapore, Fiji, and in Australia where he was visiting professor of the University of Sydney. His activities abroad did not prevent him from serving in Britain. To list but a few: he was on the committee and editorial board of the Journal of Physiology, president of the section of experimental medicine of the Royal Society of Medicine, a member of the Cohen Committee on the categorization of drugs, a member of the Poisons Board of the Home Office, and of the British National Formulary Committee et seq. He was also a member of the committee of the Pharmacological Society, 1949-52 and 1955-56, and honorary secretary of the medical library at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School until 1968.

In 1968 he retired from the chair but was immediately appointed to the directorship of the Arthur Stanley Institute of Rheumatology at the Middlesex Hospital - a post he held until 1972. He worked hard to develop this subject.

As well as the monograph already referred to above, his publications included Recent advances in pharmacology, with the late J M Robson, London, Churchill, 1950 (2nd edition 1956). With the death of Samson Wright in 1956, Keele took on Applied Physiology, London, Oxford University Press, together with Eric Neil, and they published four editions ending with the 13th in 1982.

One wonders whether such a busy life left time for leisure. Cyril felt that his interest in rugger - he was captain of the hospital team - and cricket, of which he knew a phenomenal amount, and athletics, all contributed to keep him happy. Much of his strength was due to his very happy marriage to June in 1942. Their three sons, Gerard who practises medicine in Norfolk, Richard who has a doctorate in geology and John who went into business, provided him with immense satisfaction.

Cyril was a wise and kind man, and deeply religious.

F Hobbiger
E Neil

[Brit.med.J., 1988,296,94; Middx.Hosp.J., Aug 1968,68 (4)125-27;Feb 1969,69 (1) 8-9]

(Volume VIII, page 250)

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