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Biographical entry Kay, Sir Andrew Watt (1916 - 2011)

Kt 1973; MB ChB Glasgow 1939; FRCS Edin 1942; MD 1944; ChM 1949; FRFPSG 1956; FRCS 1960; FRCS Glasgow 1967; FRACS 1970; FRCSC 1972; FCS(SoAf) 1972; Hon FACS 1973; Hon DSc Leicester 1973; Hon DSc Sheffield 1975; Hon FRCSI 1979; Hon DSc Manchester 1981.

14 August 1916
Ayr, Ayrshire, UK
1 February 2011
Paisley, Renfrewshire, UK
General surgeon


Sir Andrew Watt Kay was regius professor of surgery at Glasgow and an archetypal Scottish academic surgeon. Known by surgical trainees worldwide through his book A textbook of surgical physiology (Edinburgh/London, E & S Livingstone, 1959), written with R Ainslie Jamieson, Kay stood alongside many other surgical giants from north of the border.

Kay (known affectionately as 'Drew') was born in Ayr on 14 August 1916, the eldest son of David Watt Kay and Jean Cuthbertson Kay née Muir, both of whom were pharmacists. He attended Ayr Academy and studied medicine at Glasgow University, graduating in 1939, having won the Brunton memorial prize as the most distinguished graduate of the year. He was later awarded an MD and the Bellahouston gold medal in 1944, the medical faculty's highest award.

Between 1942 and 1945, and then again from 1948 to 1956, he was an assistant to the regius professor of surgery at Glasgow, the redoubtable Sir Charles Illingworth, thus obtaining a major formative apprenticeship, second to none for an aspiring academic surgeon. During the intervening years, from 1946 to 1948, he carried out his National Service, continuing his surgical training at Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital in London, where he held the rank of major.

In 1956 he became a consultant in charge of the surgical wards at Glasgow Western Infirmary. Two years later, he was appointed professor of surgery at Sheffield University, where he established a renowned surgical training school notable for spawning a clutch of surgical professors trained with an ethos linking the long academic tradition of the Scottish medical schools with the practicalities of providing surgical services to a large industrial city. In 1964 he returned to Glasgow, to succeed Illingworth as regius professor, and was almost immediately made a member of the Royal Commission on Medical Education.

It was between these two environments, Sheffield and Glasgow, that Kay developed his research interests in gastroenterology in general and peptic ulceration in particular. In this latter arena he gained worldwide recognition. It was during his tenure at Sheffield that he was awarded an FRCS ad eundem by the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Thereafter further accolades were bestowed upon him, and inevitably his involvement in administrative and political activities steadily increased. In 1969, during his tenure as president of the Surgical Research Society, he took up the Sir Arthur Sims Commonwealth travelling professorship. He was awarded the Cecil Joll prize and the Gordon Gordon-Taylor lectureship and medal. In 1971 he was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and, in the following year, became president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. He was surgeon to the Queen in Scotland and part-time chief scientist to the Scottish Home and Health Department from 1973 to 1981. He was knighted in 1973.

In 1943 he married Janetta Roxburgh. They had two sons and two daughters. Janetta predeceased him in 1990, and he subsequently married Phyllis Gillies, in 1992. Kay died on 1 February 2011 in Paisley, Renfrewshire, at the age of 94.

Sir Miles Irving

Sources used to compile this entry: [The University of Glasgow Story: Sir Andrew Kay - accessed 28 November 2013; The Scotsman - accessed 28 November 2013; Gibson, T. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow: a short history based on the portraits and other memorabilia Edinburgh, Macdonald, 1983, p.283; Journal of the Irish Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, Vol.8 No.4 April, 1979, p.168].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England