Lives of the fellows

Samuel Alexander Kinnier Wilson

b.6 December 1874 d.12 May 1937
MA Edin(1897) MB ChB(1902) BSc(1903) MD DSc FRCP(1914)

Kinnier Wilson was born at Cedarville, New Jersey, U.S.A., the only son of Rev. James Kinnier Wilson, of County Monaghan, Ireland, by his first wife, Agnes Legerwood Hately. He was educated in Edinburgh, at George Watson’s College and at the University, where he graduated successively as M.A. (1897), M.B, Ch.B. (1902), and B.Sc. (1903). His first house appointment was at the Royal Infirmary, and was followed by a visit to Paris, as Carnegie research fellow, to study neurology, and by a short stay in Leipzig. He returned in 1904 to join the resident staff of the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic in London, where, after holding a number of junior appointments, he was elected assistant physician in 1913 and full physician in 1925. He was made assistant physician to the Westminster Hospital in 1912 and dean two years later, but resigned from its staff in 1919, on being appointed junior neurologist and lecturer on neurology at King’s College Hospital. He was given full charge of the latter’s neurological department in 1928. He also held the appointment of neurologist, first to the Metropolitan Asylums Board, and then to the London County Council.

Wilson was early accepted as a leading authority on neurology as a result of his description in 1912 of the familial nervous syndrome that became known as "Wilson’s disease". In 1920 he founded the Journal of Neurology and Psychopathology and became its first editor. A collection of his papers entitled Modern Problems in Neurology appeared in 1928 and his work Neurology, edited by A. N. Bruce, was published posthumously in 1940. Wilson was Croonian Lecturer at the Royal College of Physicians in 1925 and Morison lecturer at Edinburgh in 1930. It was in the exposition, both written and spoken, of his difficult subject that he excelled. His writings were marked by an unusual lucidity that extended, beyond the mere descriptive approach, to philosophical reasoning. His lectures, by their compelling, dramatic quality, drew students from all parts of the world. The individuality of his temperament inevitably provoked clashes with associates; yet his satirical manner in reality disguised a sensitive, though restless, nature. Wilson’s international reputation was heightened by his command of languages and his love of travelling. Outside his work his interests were centred in golf and his garden at Thorpeness. He married in 1913 Annie Louisa, daughter of Alexander Bruce, M.D, of Edinburgh. He died in London.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1937; B.M.J., 1937; Lyle, Addendum, 88; Presidential Address to R.C.P., 1938, 13; D.N.B., 1931-40, 914]

(Volume IV, page 540)

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