Lives of the fellows

Kenneth Smedley MacLean

b.22 November 1914 d.4 December 2009
BA Cantab(1936) MRCS LRCP(1939) MB BChir(1939) MRCP(1946) MD(1948) FRCP(1954)

Kenneth Smedley MacLean was director of the department of medicine at Guy’s Hospital, London. His father, Hugh MacLean [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.257], was the first professor of medicine at St Thomas’ Hospital, while his mother, Ida née Smedley, was an eminent biochemist and an expert on fat metabolism. Kenneth was educated at Westminster and then went to Cambridge and Guy’s, qualifying just before the outbreak of the Second World War. He joined the Navy and saw action at sea in various places, before becoming a medical officer to the British Naval Unit at Naples.

In 1946, he returned to Guy’s as a house physician and then a medical registrar, in which post he quickly gained recognition as an excellent physician. The recent introduction of antibiotics and corticosteroid therapy meant that certain previously fatal conditions were becoming amenable to treatment; MacLean was particularly interested in this aspect of his work and he published Medical treatment (London, J & A Churchill, 1957), which was widely acclaimed and went through several editions, a remarkable achievement for a book in such a rapidly changing field. There was general satisfaction when in 1950 he was appointed to the Guy’s staff as a consultant physician. In 1961 he became director of the department of medicine.

MacLean was a natural leader and quickly became a dominant personality in any group he joined. Various organisations, both professional and lay, that enjoyed the benefit of his membership, found when he left that the subtle changes he had instituted had improved the quality and quantity of their output. His outstanding leadership qualities led to his becoming chairman of the medical committee of the hospital and of the school council, and Guy’s has reason to be grateful for the wise guidance he provided in these posts.

He took a keen interest in sport: he was a follower of horse racing and was at one time a fan of Chelsea Football Club. He took great pleasure in playing golf and, off a handicap of 12, was always a hard man to beat. Unlike most golfers, who tend to go from bad to worse, adversity brought out the best in him and his golfing friends told many tales of how a remarkable shot had saved him from imminent defeat.

He enjoyed a happy home life, but the tragic early death of his son Anthony was a grievous blow which he faced with characteristic courage and dignity. His wife Joan (née Hardaker), to whom he was devoted, predeceased him by many years, but he had a happy relationship with his daughter Anne and his remaining son Michael. His long-time secretary, Mary Weaver, was a tower of strength in supporting him in his old age.

J C Houston

(Volume XII, page web)

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