Lives of the fellows

Archibald Edmund Clark-Kennedy

b.23 April 1893 d.2 September 1985
MA Cantab(l914) MRCS LRCP(1918) MRCP(1921) MD(1923) FRCP(1930)

Archibald Clark-Kennedy, formerly consultant physician to the London Hospital, 1928-58; dean of the London Hospital medical college 1937-53, and fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 1919-1985, died in Addenbrooke’s Hospital after a few days’ unconsciousness. As Chris Bartlett wrote in the obituary in the British Medical Journal, ‘His great span of life, lived out in fullness to the very end, matched his physical, intellectual and moral stature.’

The son of the Revd A E Clark-Kennedy, he was educated at Wellington College and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he graduated with first class honours in the natural sciences tripos. Elected a fellow of Corpus Christi in 1919, he was director of medical studies for many years.

On the outbreak of war in 1914 he volunteered for the Army and was commissioned into the Queen’s Royal West Sussex Regiment (5th Territorial Battalion) and served in India and Mesopotamia. On his return to England in 1917 he completed his medical studies at the London. He qualified with the conjoint and gained a commission in the RAMC, serving in France as medical officer to 158 Army RFA Brigade. On demobilization his higher medical qualifications were acquired rapidly. After working on the medical unit under Sir Arthur Ellis [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p. 162] he was appointed a physician to the London Hospital in 1928, and in 1937 dean of the London Hospital medical college.

His 17 years as dean of the London Hospital medical college included the 1939-45 war, throughout which he ran his medical firm in Whitechapel, while maintaining his school, for the first few years, scattered over a consortium of hospitals in East Anglia, mainly linked by his own personal efforts. He placed the preclinical departments in Cambridge and was able - as he put it - to keep an eye on them and on Corpus at the same time. From 1939-45 Archie carried much of the burden of running the London’s large section of the Emergency Medical Service. Almost single-handed, as far as the management of the London college was concerned, he kept it alive and functioning efficiently, disseminated as it was over four counties. Throughout the war he was one of the few, at one period there were only two, physicians with beds in Whitechapel. After the war he had to cope with changes when the London Hospital became part of the National Health Service, and its medical school became an autonomous college of the University of London, financially dependent on the University Grants Committee. Problems of the long term future jostled with immediate difficulties of every kind, all of them calling for urgent action from the dean.

Archie later became acknowledged as an outstanding educationalist. In 1947 the first volume of his book Medicine: The patient and his disease, Edinburgh, E&S Livingstone, was published. The second, Medicine: Diagnosis, prevention and treatment, appeared in 1953, and a third, Medicine: medicine in a human setting, in 1954.

As a clinician his great skill was in identifying the true nature of a problem. He relied little on the emotional stimulus of new discoveries. For this reason some considered his practice of medicine unscientific and his teaching too theoretical, but although he constantly asserted the importance of showing students how to learn rather than conveying the fact, he never despised the latter. Neither was he reluctant to apply new discoveries provided he was convinced logically of their usefulness.

Besides articles in medical journals he was the author of Patients as people, London, Faber & Faber, 1957; Human disease, England, Harmondsworth Penguin Books, 1957; How to learn medicine, London, Faber & Faber, 1959 and Clinical Medicine, the modern approach, with C W Bartley, London, Pitman, 1960. His interest in history produced Stephen Hales, DD FRS: an l8th century biography, Cambridge University Press, 1929. In retirement he undertook a two-volume History of the London Hospital, London, Pitman Medical Publications, c.1963.
This was followed by Edith Cavell: pioneer and patriot, London, Faber & Faber, 1965, and Man, medicine and morality, London, Faber & Faber, c.1969. Undeterred by advancing years, he wrote Attack the colour, London, Research Publishing Company, 1975; A Victorian soldier, 1980. and finally Cambridge to Botany Bay, 1983, the story of an infamous first cousin, J R Mortlock, on which was based an entertaining television programme.

Archie’s physical achievements became almost legendary. His great height, long legs and inexhaustible stamina made him a fine long distance runner. He ran for Cambridge Hare and Hounds against Oxford before the first world war, and was still delighting students in the 1950’s running cross country. Towards the end of the second world war he lost the sight of one eye, and a cataract obscured his vision in the other. For some 26 years he could only see with difficulty. For many years after the war he rode to hounds, relying on the visual acuity of his horse. On holiday he would hunt with a foot pack in Cumbria, and also went salmon fishing in the Solway Firth. He loved to beagle and sail, but his greatest joy was walking the fells. He completed the Pennine Way in 14 days at 78 years old. He celebrated his 80th birthday at the top of Skiddaw. In his 80’s bicycle tours covered most parts of Britain, beginning usually on a Sunday when it was easier to cycle across London from Liverpool Street to some other terminus, and then take the train to a point from which he would move from one youth hostel to the next.

His wife Phyllis, who died in 1978, had been trained as a nurse at the London. His daughter and one grand-daughter nursed at the same hospital. His son was a fellow and steward of estates at Corpus. Archie continued to live an independent life until shortly before his death. This continued activity was a triumph of thought and courage over differing kinds of disability. Finding his moped, and later his bicycle, both of which had served him faithfully for decades, were now too insecure, he maintained his mobility on a tricycle, a racing model with 10 gears. This enable him to dine regularly at Corpus right up to the end, and he remained one of the best conversationalists at High Table, fully abreast of all current affairs. Towards the end of his life he became a Unitarian and among his later publications was Basic belief, or, the faith of an agnostic, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, c.1980, an expression of what he called ‘basic relief. Above all he valued his independence, which he retained until the end, curtailed by only a few days in hospital before his death.

The British Medical Journal obituary pertinently remarked that his greatness arose partly from a ‘…touch of eccentricity about him. It imparted an orginality of thought that demolished traditional attitudes but only to expose truth.’ Archie had a spark of the divine fire which makes the elect of any profession.

B Hazleman

[, 1985,291,828; Lancet, 1985,2,621; The Times, 3 Sept 1985; Letters of the Corpus Assoc.65,Michaelmas 1986 (Corpus Christi College); Lond.Hosp.Gaz., Dec 1974.77(4),3-7; July 1972,75(3),8-12; July 1958,61(3),76-78; Oct 1953,56(5)143-44]

(Volume VIII, page 88)

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