Lives of the fellows

Alfred Henry (Sir) Keogh

b.3 July 1857 d.30 July 1936
GCVO(1918) CH(1918) GCB(1917) KCB(1906) CB(1900) MD MCh RUI(1878) Hon MD Dubl Hon ScD Oxon Leeds Hon LLD Edin Aberd FRCP(1914) Hon FRCS Edin Hon FRCSI Hon FRCS

Alfred Keogh was born in Dublin, the son of Henry Keogh, barrister. He received his medical training at Guy’s Hospital and Queen’s College, Galway, graduating as M.D, M.Ch, in 1878, and then acted as a house physician in the Brompton Hospital. He entered the Army as a surgeon in 1880 and in the course of his training at Netley won the Herbert prize and the Martin memorial gold medal. His first posting was to the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, and with this he combined a clinical assistantship at the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital. He served with great distinction in charge of a general hospital in South Africa during the War, and on his return became in 1902 deputy director-general, Army Medical Services, and three years later director-general. His first tenure of this post, which lasted till 1910, was memorable for several achievements — the reorganisation of military hospitals into larger and well-equipped units, the opening of the Royal Army Medical College in 1907, the recruitment of the Territorial Medical Service in 1908, and the assignation of responsibility for unit sanitation to commanding officers.

On retiring from the Army, Keogh was appointed rector of the Imperial College of Science and Technology. His new career, however, was interrupted by his recall to the War Office as director-general after the outbreak of war in 1914. Here, in co-operation with Sir Arthur Sloggett, who carried out the director-general’s duties in France, he supervised the huge expansion of the Army’s medical services of which he had himself laid sure foundations, and undertook the arduous task of meeting the Army’s vast medical needs. His unqualified success was recognised by the honours showered on him when, after the armistice, he returned, a lieutenant-general, to his civilian employment at Imperial College. From the Crown he received the honour of G.C.B. in 1917 — he had been created C.B. in 1900 and promoted to K.C.B. in 1906 — and those of G.C.V.O. and C.H. in 1918. France made him a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour; from Belgium he received the Order of the Crown, and from Serbia the Order of the White Eagle.

Keogh’s successes were due to his ability to reach correct decisions without delay, to delegate responsibility in the right proportions, and to keep on the happiest terms both with military colleagues and subordinates and with the civilian leaders of the medical profession, to whom, as he saw, the R.A.M.C, both in peace time and in war, must owe its standards of service. With all his renown he remained modest, courteous and painstaking. He married, firstly, in 1880 Elizabeth, daughter of George Williams, M.D., I.M.S., by whom he had one son; and, secondly, in 1888 Camilla Porterfield, daughter of Captain William Hamilton Sherriff Hart, 105th Regiment, by whom he had two daughters. He died in London.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1936; B.M.J., 1936; Journal of the R.A.M.C., 1936, lxvii, 145; D.N.B., 1931-40, 506; Roll of Army Medical Service, 6687]

(Volume IV, page 537)

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