Lives of the fellows

Alan Kekwick

b.12 April 1909 d.5 April 1974
MRCS LRCP(1933) MA MB BChir Cantab(1934) MRCP(1937) FRCP(1946)

Alan Kekwick was the son of John Kekwick and Catharine Curror-Prain, a Scotswoman from Dundee. John Kekwick qualified in medicine with the Conjoint diploma in 1894, like Alan from the Middlesex Hospital, but as his father, and later his uncle who had supported him financially during his training had both died before he qualified John Kekwick was constrained not to follow the practice of medicine but qualified in dentistry, in which he had a flourishing practice in Carlisle until his death in 1930. It was in this part of the country that Alan grew up, acquiring in the Lake District an abiding love of mountain and rock-climbing. During the war while stationed in Nairobi he made the relatively easy ascent of Kilimanjaro and later essayed the lower but much more difficult peak of Mt. Kenya with his future wife and her brother. Unfortunately a short distance from the summit he was hit on the head by a falling stone, suffered mild concussion and had to give up the attempt much to his chagrin, and even more so to that of his wife to be, who would have been the first white woman to have conquered the mountain.

Alan Kekwick was educated at Charterhouse, Emmanuel College and the Middlesex Hospital. After qualification in 1933 he held various resident appointments at the Hospital and from 1936-39 the most important senior post of resident medical officer. In the last post he was for a time a Leverhulme Research Scholar and in conjunction with H.L. Marriott FRCP carried out most valuable research on blood transfusion and wound shock, producing several publications including a pioneer contribution on continuous drip blood transfusion.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 he immediately joined the Army and spent two years in the Army Blood Transfusion Service at Bristol before being posted to Kenya, where his expert knowledge was invaluable in the African Campaign. He left the Army with the rank of Lt. Colonel.

After the war he returned to Middlesex where he was appointed to the newly-created Professorship in Medicine and consultant physician. Despite a stringent budget Kekwick built up his department to a very high level of efficiency both in research and teaching. His main personal interest was in the aetiology, metabolism and treatment of obesity on which he became a world authority, but in addition to this he had a wide-ranging knowledge and experience of the whole of medicine and above all he had the hall-mark of truly great physicians: his approach to sick friends, colleagues and to his hospital patients was exactly the same, marked by courtesy, tolerance, sympathy and a deep understanding of personal problems extended not only to his patients but, alike, to their anxious relatives and friends.

Kekwick was Censor and later Senior Censor to the College. He was examiner in Medicine to Makerere College, Uganda, to the Colleges of the West Indies, Ibadan and to the British Universities of London and Glasgow. He was a Member of the Senate and of the Academic Council of the University of London, of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the British Nutrition Foundation, and of a Ministry of Health Committee on food additives, of whose pharmacological committee he was Chairman. Last, but not least, Kekwick was the prime instigator in the foundation of the Institute of Clinical Research at Middlesex Hospital, of which he was Director until his retirement from his Chair in 1970.

He retired from his Professorship in 1970 because he felt the time had come for him to make room for a younger man. He continued as consultant physician until 1972 when increasing ill-health forced him to retire prematurely. In his last years he was looked after devotedly by his wife in their home in Hadlow, Kent.

Alan Kekwick was not outstanding academically but he more than made up for this by hard work, devotion and the strength of his personality, all of which may well have been influenced by his father’s frustration in not being able to follow to its ultimate his chosen career. Kekwick was twice married. By his first wife he had a son who qualified in medicine from Guy’s and is specializing in cardiology. With his second wife he adopted a son and daughter who gave them great joy.

Sir Allen Goldsmith

[Brit.med.J., 1974, 2, 230; Lancet, 1977, 1, 817; Times, 10 Apr 1974]

(Volume VI, page 264)

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