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Biographical entry Burnside, Kennedy Byron (1913 - 1983)

MRCS and FRCS 1947; MB BS Melbourne 1937; FRACS 1948.

9 December 1913
12 June 1983
General surgeon and Urological surgeon


Kennedy Burnside was born in Melbourne on 9 December 1913. He was educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School before going to the University of Melbourne to read medicine. He graduated in 1937 and was successively resident and registrar at the Alfred Hospital in 1938 and 1939.

During the second world war he commanded the 2nd Australian Mobile Bacteriology Laboratory from 1941. He was serving in Malaya at the fall of Singapore in 1942, after which he was imprisoned by the Japanese at a small prisoner-of-war camp. There he was senior medical officer looking after some 300 men, with a camp hospital servicing other groups in the district. There were a few British doctors, and later some Dutch, all of whom he dealt with scrupulously and impartially, showing invariable courtesy and good humour. He disliked humbug, however, and could be outspoken. During his time as a prisoner-of-war in Singapore and at Changi he not only ran his laboratory but wrote a book on the management and prevention of malaria. He kept a daily diary, which survives to this day and worked out the nutritional content of the rations and confronted the Japanese with his figures. He studied anatomy and mathematics and became adequately proficient in Japanese, Malay and French.

After the war he took his MRCS and FRCS in England in 1947 and on returning to Australia in 1948 was appointed honorary surgeon to out-patients at the Alfred Hospital, and became FRACS the same year. He became interested in urology and taught himself endoscopic procedures, which he pursued with characteristic enthusiasm until he was recognised as an outstanding expert on endoscopic resection. At the request of the hospital he formed a separate urological unit in 1956. He retired from the honorary staff in 1973, and was appointed honorary consultant urologist. In 1973 and 1974 he was President of the Urolological Society of Australia.

He was an outstanding teacher and presented numerous papers, some of a controversial nature, but always the product of his own experience rather than based on precepts from the literature. He never used notes. He had catholic interests outside his specialty, and his conversation on any topic was always illuminating and his views usually proved correct. His occupations apart from surgery included sound reproduction, photography, cabinet-making and water-skiing.

He died on 12 June 1983, aged 69.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Med J Aust 1984, 140, 169].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England