Lives of the fellows

Donald Rose Paterson

b.20 September 1862 d.23 May 1939
MB CM Edin(1883) MD Edin(1887) MRCP(1886) FRCP(1926)

Donald Paterson, the son of John and Marjory (née Rose) Paterson, was born in Inverness and graduated with honours at Edinburgh in 1883, obtaining the M.D. with commendation in 1887, his academic career having been brilliant with medals and prizes. After house appointments at Inverness and Cardiff he continued university studies in Vienna and Berlin, and always remained intensely attached to continental medicine. He then returned to Cardiff where he spent the rest of a distinguished life.

At first he was a consulting physician who also did some pathology, and worked with Berry Haycraft in the department of physiology and was also lecturer in charge of the department of materia medica and pharmacy at the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire. In these years he wrote on a wide range of topics— drug dangers, treatment, pure physiology—and was on the staff of the Practitioner, and a frequent writer of leading articles for other journals. In 1891 he was appointed honorary assistant physician and pathologist at the Cardiff Infirmary, but soon after this, when his wide scientific outlook gave promise of a distinguished career in general medicine, he turned to ear, nose and throat work and became the first honorary surgeon to this department at the Infirmary.

In this sphere he rapidly acquired an international reputation. It is thought he may have been the first to use endoscopy of the ear and upper food passages in this country. Before starting in his new department he went to several continental clinics to gain experience, and became particularly attached to Killian’s service at Freiburg, where much new work was developing. Later he translated Killian’s classic book, The Accessory sinuses of the nose (1904), but he will be remembered longest for his account, given at a Royal Society of Medicine meeting in 1919 immediately after a paper by Brown Kelly on the same subject, of what is now known eponymously by their two names, or ‘anaemia with dysphagia’ (J. Laryng., 1919, 24, 289-91).

His publications were numerous and he was a constant speaker at congresses and meetings at home and abroad. In 1913-14 he was president of the laryngological section of the Royal Society of Medicine. He was a corresponding member of the American Laryngological Association and of the Société des Laryngologistes des Hôpitaux de Paris, and honorary member of the Berliner Gesell-schaft Deutscher Hals Nasen u. Ohrenaerzte. He had great administrative capacity and served on all hospital committees, taking particular interest in nursing problems, being a member of the council of the Royal College of Nursing (1936-8). In his own specialty he occupied at various times most official positions.

He was also well-known in South Wales for his great interest in the Cardiff municipal museum, and later in the National Museum of Wales, in the Naturalists’ Society, and in Celtic place-names and the historic houses of the district. He was a keen fisherman, spending a fishing holiday in Scandinavia most years.

He married in 1897 Constance Mary, elder daughter of Richard Baker-Gabb, of Abergavenny. They had three sons and a daughter.

A bronze plaque, by his friend Goscombe John, at the Royal Infirmary gives a good likeness of his distinguished appearance.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1939, 1, 1160-61 (p), 1208-20; J. Laryng., 1939, 54, 437-40, bibl.; Lancet, 1939, 1, 1296; Pract. oto-rhino-laryng. (Basel), 1939, 2, 320-21; Times, 25 May 1939.]

(Volume V, page 321)

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