Lives of the fellows

Francis John Davison Knights

b.30 December 1911 d.27 October 1981
MRCS LRCP(1935) MB BS Lond(1936) MD(1939) MRCP(1945) FRCP(1969)

Frank Knights, son of Edgar Robert Knights, master tailor, and Katherine Jane Davison, spent his early life in London. After attending Cheltonia College Preparatory School, he entered Dulwich College, leaving in 1929. He then went to Middlesex Hospital, qualifying in 1935. After house appointments at Middlesex, Miller, and London Chest Hospitals he married Kathleen Esther Murphy, daughter of a civil servant and a ward sister, and together they went, under the auspices of the Church Missionary Society, to West China, where their three sons were born.

Frank spent the war years as practitioner and teacher of medicine at the West China Union University in Chengtu, and ran a small tuberculosis sanatorium in an orchard during this time. He also spent a year up country, in a remote area, coping with both medical and surgical problems.

Returning to this country at the end of 1944, he obtained his MRCP, and in 1946 became assistant tuberculosis officer at the London Chest Hospital. In 1948, he was appointed consultant physician in diseases of the chest to Gloucester and Cheltenham Hospitals. Always immensely enthusiastic in everything he did, he quickly set about the organization of a chest service in Gloucestershire, and by the advent of the NHS had already paved the way for the ultimate control of tuberculosis in the county, then a major problem. He later developed the service to include non-tuberculous disease and especially allergic disease, in which he became extremely interested and an expert.

Apart from his enthusiasm and zest for life, he possessed an acute sense of humour and also an extraordinary clarity of thought, which made him a most valued member, and often chairman, of many committees, and his contribution in this direction was truly monumental, including membership of the council of St Paul’s and St Mary’s Teacher Training Colleges for nine years.

His interests apart from medicine were manifold. He maintained from boyhood a special interest in natural history, and he loved his garden and alpines especially. A highly intelligent man, he read widely all his life, especially philosophical and theological works, and he was a lay-reader for some years. He became an authority upon such diverse subjects as the life of Christina of Sweden, the eunuchs of Byzantium, Commedia del ’Arte, and Aesculapian medicine in Rome. In later life he became a true Italophile and learned to speak Italian fluently.

Ever young in mind and in heart, it was typical of him that before he retired from the NHS he had already made arrangements to take up an entirely different task in industrial medicine. His death was unexpected and premature. He was survived by his wife Kathleen and three sons, one of whom had qualified as a doctor.

RH Ellis

[Brit.med.J., 1982, 284, 59]

(Volume VII, page 324)

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