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Biographical entry McKeown, Kenneth Charles (1912 - 1995)

CBE 1973; MRCS and FRCS 1949; MB BCh BAO 1935; MCh 1941; FRCS Edinburgh 1940.

31 October 1912
General surgeon


Kenneth McKeown was born on 31 October 1912 in Belfast. His father, Robert James McKeown, was a linen manufacturer and his mother was Sarah, née Owen. He received his medical training at the Royal Academical Institute in Belfast, and at Queen's University, where he achieved distinctions in anatomy and physiology before qualifying in 1935. He was determined to become a surgeon, and gained the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1940 and the MCh a year later. During his training he was influenced by Sir Douglas McLaggan, Terence Milligan, Lambinudi and C P Wilson.

He served in the RAMC as a lieutenant colonel and surgical specialist in the 19th and 82nd General Hospitals. After the war he was appointed a lecturer in surgery in Grey Turner's department at the Hammersmith Hospital and was appointed as a consultant in Darlington in 1950. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1949. He developed a great interest in oesophageal surgery and contributed many papers on this subject which led to his international reputation. He was also the joint author of The medical effects of nuclear war. He was an excellent teacher, and became an adviser in surgery and later a surgical tutor at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He became a Hunterian Professor in 1972.

He served on many local NHS committees and also on the Central Health Services Council and the Central Council for Postgraduate Education, for which he received a CBE in 1973. Later he was made a Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Durham. He established the McKeown medal of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and this is awarded annually to the principal lecturer of the Autumn term.

Kenneth McKeown travelled extensively, and continued his publications, including his autobiography, A tale of two citadels, after his retirement. This book gave a fascinating view of the changing surgical world in the second half of the twentieth century. His main hobby was fishing. In 1940 he married Joan Waugh and they had twin sons, both of whom are doctors.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 28 June 1995; Daily Telegraph 1 July 1995].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England