Lives of the fellows

Dawson (Sir) Williams

b.17 July 1854 d.27 February 1928
CBE(1919) MA MD Lond Hon DSc Sheff Hon LLD Glasg Hon Dlitt Durh MRCS FRCP(1895)

Dawson Williams was born at Ulleskelf, Yorkshire, the eldest son of Rev. John Mack Williams, formerly rector of Burnby, and his wife Ellen Monsarrat. He was educated at Pocklington Grammar School and at University College, London, graduating in arts before studying medicine. Having qualified in 1878 he served in junior appointments at University College Hospital, the Victoria Hospital for Children and the Brompton Hospital. He was elected assistant physician to the East London Hospital for Children in 1884 and was promoted to full physician ten years later, afterwards becoming consulting physician. He contributed several articles to Allbutt’s System of Medicine, and in 1898 published his own Medical Diseases of Infancy and Childhood, which was recognised as a work of importance.

Meanwhile Williams had been drawn into close connection with the British Medical Journal. First associated with it in 1881, he was appointed its hospital reporter three years later, principal subeditor in 1886, and assistant editor in 1895. On Ernest Hart’s death in 1898 he succeeded to the editorship, relinquishing most of his private and hospital practice; after 1902 he devoted his whole time to his editorial duties. During his thirty years’ tenure of the office he dedicated himself to making the Journal not only the efficient mouthpiece of a growing number of organised practitioners but, in the fullest sense, a medical newspaper and a forum for scientific research. This period witnessed such changes as those wrought by the general acceptance of Lister’s work on antisepsis and its later adaptations, the revolution in cardiology resulting from James Mackenzie’s teaching, the reorganisation of the B.M.A, the National Insurance Act, and the first World War. On every issue Williams brought the impact of a mind that was cool, incisive and progressive, and a sense of duty that was lofty and unfaltering. He received the C.B.E. in 1919 and was knighted in 1921, in which year he was also awarded the gold medal of merit of the B.M.A. He married in 1882 Catherine, daughter of Robert Kirkpatrick-Howat, D.L, of Mabie, Kirkcudbright, and had one daughter. He died at Bourne End.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1928; B.M.J., 1928; Times, 28 Feb. 1928; Presidential Address to R.C.P., 1928, 26]

(Volume IV, page 383)

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