Lives of the fellows

Thomas Percy Claude Kirkpatrick

b.10 Sept 1869 d.9 July 1954
BA Dubl(1891) BAO Dubl(1895) MB BCh Dubl(1895) MD Dubl(1895) DLitt Dubl(1924) Hon DLitt NUI(1933) MRCPI(1903) FRCPI(1904) MRIA(1906) *FRCP(1942)

Thomas Kirkpatrick was born in Dublin, the son of John Rutherford Kirkpatrick, M.D., King’s professor of midwifery in Dublin University (1882-9), and his wife, Catherine, elder sister of Henry Drury, M.D., F.R.C.P.I. He was educated at Foyle College, Londonderry, and at Dublin University, where he graduated with a senior moderatorship in ethics and logic. He became visiting physician to Dr Steevens’ Hospital in 1903 and was made honorary professor of the history of medicine in Dublin University in 1936. In 1946 he was president of the Royal Irish Academy. Kirkpatrick was one of the first men in Dublin to specialise in anaesthetics.

He was a good teacher, who ‘made his pupils feel that they were in the patient’s place’. He also ran large clinics for venereal disease in Dr Steevens’ Hospital and in the Lock Hospital in Townsend Street. He was a sound historical writer, always accurate in his facts and fair in his judgments. For more than forty years he was registrar of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. Presidents came and went after their three-year term of office, but ‘Kirk’ was really the permanent official who directed College policy.

He never owned a motor car, but cycled patiently across the city to Steevens’ Hospital past the historical remnants of old Dublin, whilst his colleagues flashed past in their cars through streets which to them were just ‘the slums’. Kirkpatrick’s only hobby was books, and more books. He had a magnificent collection of first editions and other treasures dear to the bibliophile. Sunday morning would usually find him rearranging and dusting with loving care the fine collection of old books in the library of Steevens’ Hospital. Not unnaturally the majority of his numerous articles and books concerned the history of medicine in Ireland, like his History of the medical teaching in Trinity College, Dublin (1912) and The History of Doctor Steevens' Hospital, Dublin (1924).

He was a life-long bachelor. He liked dining and intellectual conversation, mellowed by good vintage port. To celebrate the twenty-fifth year of his tenure of office as general secretary of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland he was presented with a silver salver. It bore the very appropriate inscription, ‘Vir amabilis ad societatem, magis amicus quam frater’.

Richard R Trail

* He was elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the fellowship of "Persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical or General Science or Literature..."

[Brit.med.J., 1954, 2, 248; Irish J. med. Sci., 1954, Aug., 364-74 (p), bibl.; Irish Times, 12 July 1954 (p); Lancet, 1954, 2, 295.]

(Volume V, page 231)

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