Lives of the fellows

Kenneth Douglas Wilkinson

b.17 April 1886 d.12 April 1951
OBE(1918) MB ChB Birm(1920) MD Birm(1912) MRCP(1914) FRCP(1929)

Kenneth Wilkinson, son of the Rev. H. C. Wilkinson, and his wife, the former Elizabeth Ellen Douglas, was born at High Legh, Cheshire, and was educated at Berkhamsted School and the University of Birmingham, where he won various prizes as an undergraduate. After holding resident appointments at the Queen’s and General Hospitals in Birmingham he obtained the post of casualty officer at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street. He returned to Birmingham in 1913 when appointed assistant physician at the Children’s Hospital, and, a year later, was elected to the staff of the General Hospital.

When war broke out in 1914 he went with a Territorial unit to France where he served in turn with a Field Ambulance, a Casualty Clearing Station and finally with G. E. Gask’s unit which was responsible for so much original work on the care of patients with penetrating chest wounds. He was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the O.B.E.

Being especially interested in diseases of the heart he decided to work with Sir Thomas Lewis before returning to Birmingham. Thus equipped for specialist work he secured appointments as consultant cardiologist to the Birmingham City Hospitals and to Baskerville Residential School for Rheumatic Children, where he made full use of his opportunities to study the effects of rheumatic fever and diphtheria on the heart. His views on these subjects were summarised in the Ingleby lecture which he delivered in 1935 at the University of Birmingham (Lancet, 1935, 2, 411-17).

Combining diagnostic skill with an ability to express his opinion with great clarity and forcefulness, he quickly established a large consulting practice. These same qualities, emphasised by a lively wit and by his masterly use of anecdote, made him a popular and arresting teacher, especially at the bedside. In 1929 he was elected to the chair of therapeutics in his medical school. In the 1939-45 War he served in the Emergency Medical Service as group officer for Birmingham and consultant physician to the Birmingham Region.

He had many interests and acquired a splendid collection of books and prints concerned with the history of Birmingham and its people. He edited The History of the Birmingham Medical School, 1825-1925 (1925), and with T. W. Peck wrote the biography William Withering of Birmingham (1950). A keen student, he developed very soon a fine power of observation and a remarkable diagnostic skill. As a teacher he was clear and forthright. If he was somewhat dogmatic, his generous nature and keen wit were appreciated in the affectionate nickname of The Wilk. He loved sailing, golf, old books and good pictures, and delighted in entertaining his friends in his happy home. Whatever he did, from collecting stamps to photography and the solution of mathematical puzzles, he did with an infectious enthusiasm. He was an original member of both the British Paediatric Association and the Cardiac Society.

Wilkinson married in 1916 Phoebe Homewood, of Wallasey, Cheshire. He survived her death in 1940 with three sons and a daughter, and in 1941 married Dr Agnes Crozier, M.R.C.P., of Birmingham, by whom he had one son and two daughters.

Richard R Trail

[Birmingham Post, 13 Apr. 1951; Brit. Heart J., 1951, 13, 566-8;, 1951,1, 890-91; Lancet, 1951, 1, 914-15 (p), 969-70; Times, 14 Apr. 1951.]

(Volume V, page 448)

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