Lives of the fellows

Peter James (Sir) Kerley

b.27 October 1900 d.14 May 1979
KCVO(1972) CVO(1952) CBE(1951) MB BCh BAO Dublin(1923) DMRE(1925) MD(1932) FFR(1939) MRCP(1944) FRCP(1946) FRCR(1975)†

Peter Kerley was one of the most distinguished representatives of British radiology. He was born at Dundalk, Ireland, and qualified at the University of Dublin in 1923. In 1924 he went to study in Vienna, which was then the centre of the relatively new science of radiology. It was there that he first became interested in what was to be his principal professional preoccupation, the radiology of the heart and lungs. On returning to England he studied at Cambridge and passed the DMRE. He was awarded the MD University of Ireland in 1932.

In 1939 he became a founder member of the Faculty of Radiologists. He was appointed radiologist at Westminster Hospital where he became associated with Sir Clement Price Thomas, an association which was to be of vital importance in later years. In 1933 he was invited by S Cochrane Shanks to collaborate with him in editing A Textbook of X-ray Diagnosis by British Authors, along with EW Twining. The first edition, in three volumes, has now been expanded to six volumes in its fourth edition, and the copyright has been assigned to the Royal College of Radiologists.

He was editor of the Journal of the Faculty of Radiologists and author of many original papers the best known being the St Cyres lectures on the ‘Radiology of the Pulmonary Circulation’.

Before the second world war Kerley was busily engaged in hospital and private practice, and shortly after the outbreak of hostilities he volunteered to join the RAMC as a specialist radiologist. He was sent to India and Singapore, where he contracted dysentery and was invalided home in 1944. On his return he was appointed to the Ministry of Health, to take charge of the mass radiography service then being established, for which - with his special knowledge of the radiology of the chest-he was particularly well fitted.

In 1944 he was made MRCP without examination on presentation of his work in British Authors. Two years later he was elected to the Fellowship. In addition to his appointment at Westminster Hospital, he was radiologist to the National Heart Hospital and to King Edward VII Sanatorium, Midhurst. He was also consultant adviser in radiology to the Ministry of Health, an office which he held until he retired aged 70. Other appointments were as radiologist to Shell and Esso, both of which he held until shortly before his death, and he was adviser to the Ministry of Aviation.

In 1952 King George VI was taken ill at Balmoral and eventually came under the care of Sir Clement Price Thomas, who called in Peter Kerley. Together they diagnosed cancer of the lung, and from this initial introduction to the Royal Family ensued Peter Kerley’s long association with Royalty. For these many services he was appointed CVO in 1952 and KCVO in 1972. He had already been appointed CBE in 1951.

Many honours were bestowed upon him in addition to his presidency of the Faculty (now the Royal College of Radiologists), of which he was awarded the gold medal in 1976. He was made an honorary fellow of the American College of Radiologists, the Australasian College of Radiology, the Faculty of Radiologists of Ireland and the Chicago Radiological Society. In 1944 he received the Röntgen award of the Toronto Radiological Society.

Of published works, in addition to the editorship of British Authors in which he was responsible for the sections on the chest (taking over from Twining, who died in 1940), he prepared the first two editions of Recent Advances in Radiology.

What of the man himself? Sir Peter had all the charm of the best of the Irish, and with it all an extraordinarily acute and intelligent mind. To be with him was always an exceptional treat, right up to his last days. His hobbies were golf, shooting and fishing, especially the latter. Each spring he would go north to the Dee to catch a salmon, and seldom would he fail to land several.

He married Olive MacNamee in 1929 and they had two daughters. His wife died in 1973. Both his daughters became doctors.

SC Shanks
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme

† The list of honorary degrees is too lengthy to include in entirety.

[Brit.med.J., 1979,1, 959, 1095 & 1433; Lancet, 1979, 1, 735; Clinical Radiology, 30, No.3, p.359]

(Volume VII, page 317)

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