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Biographical entry Keynes, William Milo (1924 - 2009)

FRCS 1955; MB BChir Cambridge 1948; MD 1954; MChir 1961; DM Oxford 1964.

9 August 1924
18 February 2009
General surgeon, medical editor and writer


William Milo Keynes was an honorary consultant surgeon at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, and subsequently a writer and medical editor. He was born on 9 August 1924, the third son of Sir Geoffrey Keynes, a former vice president of the College, and Margaret Elizabeth née Darwin, a descendant of Charles Darwin. Milo was the only one of Sir Geoffrey’s sons who followed him into surgery. (The only other son in a related discipline was Richard, who became professor of physiology at Cambridge.) Milo Keynes was educated at Oundle in Northamptonshire. With family connections in Cambridge – both civic (his paternal grandfather had been mayor) and academic (through his economist uncle, Maynard), the city inevitably became a magnet and Milo chose to study at Trinity College. The cultural and artistic life he enjoyed whilst an undergraduate was cast aside somewhat reluctantly when he went to his father’s hospital (St Bartholomew’s) in London for his clinical studies. There he won the Shuter scholarship in anatomy and physiology (in 1945) and then went on to obtain the Brackenbury scholarship in surgery (in 1948).

Following a house appointment on the surgical unit at St Bartholomew’s under Paterson Ross, he spent four years in Cambridge as a demonstrator in anatomy, and then carried out his National Service in the Air Force (from 1950 to 1952). In 1953, he returned to St Bartholomew’s Hospital as a junior registrar. At the end of this appointment, in 1954, he was awarded an Arris and Gale lectureship at the College. He then returned to Cambridge, as a surgical registrar, before leaving on a Nuffield Foundation medical fellowship to Harvard and the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

On his return to the UK, he was a senior surgical registrar at St Bartholomew’s, a post which was combined with a research assistantship at St Mark’s. He then became a senior lecturer in surgery at the London Hospital under Victor Dix, from which he went to the Nuffield department of surgery at the University of Oxford as a first assistant, and as an honorary consultant in surgery at the Radcliffe Infirmary. In 1973, he migrated back to Cambridge, where he was a part-time clinical anatomist. While in his Cambridge post, he became an editor of medical books for William Heinemann publishers, and developed a career as a writer and historian. He wrote books on, among other subjects, the history of science, on Isaac Newton, and on Mendelism in human genetics. He edited a book of essays on his uncle, John Maynard Keynes, and wrote a biography of his uncle’s wife, Lydia Lopokova.

Milo Keynes died on 18 February 2009.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Harvey White].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England