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Biographical entry Kerr, John Andrew (1903 - 1987)

MRCS 1926: FRCS 1933: BSc Birmingham 1922; MB ChB 1926; LRCP 1926.

17 July 1903
Edgbaston, Birmingham
February 1987
General surgeon


John Andrew Kerr was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham, on 17 July 1903, the first of the four children of John William Kerr, a mineral water manufacturer. His mother Gertrude Adie was the daughter of a goldsmith and silversmith. He attended the George Dixon School in Birmingham and the Birmingham University Medical School. He took a BSc while doing the medical course in anatomy, physics and mathematics in 1922. He qualified in 1926 and did junior appointments in the Midlands with a short period of general practice in Wansford. His surgical training covered many hospitals at Birmingham, Chester, Windsor, the Middlesex Hospital, St Leonards-on-Sea, Addenbrooke's and the Hastings Group. He obtained the Fellowship in 1933 and moved permanently to Hastings in 1938.

During the war John served in the RAMC with the rank of Major as a surgical specialist with postings to Devon and overseas in Alexandria and Accra. Unfortunately he was found to be a carrier of streptococci and had temporarily to forego surgery, reverting to Captain RAMC and serving in Nigeria. He returned to Hastings and became a consultant with the advent of the NHS. John was somewhat of a quixotic character. He was fascinated by the minutiae of symptomatology; in spidery handwriting he wrote detailed histories extending over several pages and illustrated with elaborate diagrams. His later book, Alimentary symptomatology, is based on case histories and for years he was to be seen driving round accompanied by his research assistant in an aged Rover car loaded with boxes of case notes.

He became President of the Combined Hospitals Club of Hastings and of the South Saxons Hockey Club. He was a very keen athlete being second in the AAA high jump and third in the AAA hurdles. He sang in choirs and played the organ and delighted in describing bowel sounds as "like a Bach fugue".

In his last year he learnt to play the double bass. In 1930 he married Doris Turton. They had three sons. A great sorrow was that his son Simon, who studied medicine at Guy's, died while a medical student. His wife and two sons predeceased him. He died in February 1987 being survived by his son, David. His research assistant, Dorothy Harding, did much to support him at the end of his life.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1987, 294, 980].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England