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Biographical entry Yeates, William Keith (1920 - 1992)

MRCS and FRCS 1945; MB BS Durham 1942; MS 1945; MD 1950; Hon FRCS Edinburgh 1985.

10 March 1920
2 July 1992


Keith Yeates was born a Scotsman but lived almost all his life in Newcastle upon Tyne where he made a great name for himself in urology and a fine reputation for his department. His father William was the manager of a tobacco company in Glasgow and his mother was Winifred, née Scott. They lived in Helensburgh where Keith was born on 10 March 1920. He was at first schooled at the Glasgow Academy but was then moved to Whitley Bay Grammar School and on to the Medical School of King's College Newcastle, University of Durham. He qualified there in 1942 and took a series of resident appointments at the Royal Victoria Infirmary. There he was much influenced by the surgeon F C Pybus and by W E M Wardill, who taught him the use of the 'cold punch' for transurethral prostatectomy. His interest in urology was strengthened by a year at St Peter's and St Paul's Hospitals in London and in 1952 soon after his return to the north he was appointed consultant urologist to the Newcastle General Hospital. Due to the early retirement there of John Swinney he soon came to be in charge of the department with its large teaching commitment. He had later to supervise its relocation to the Freeman Hospital.

Yeates made some important contributions to the understanding of bladder dysfunction and of andrology but his considerable influence on the development of British urology stemmed less from his writing than from his personal teaching, his work over many years for the British Association of Urological Surgeons (President 1980-2, St Peter's medal 1983) and his editorship of the British Journal of Urology. He took tremendous trouble over his lectures and presentations and was for that reason a popular guest or visiting professor, a rôle which he filled in very many countries. His manner was quiet and courteous but he could ask the most penetrating questions and politely but devastatingly expose error or inconsistency. His personal motto was said to be 'everything can be improved'. He brought these qualities to his work with the Journal which lasted from his assistant editorship in 1967 through to his retirement as consulting editor in 1990. While in the chair he raised the standard of contributions and secured an international circulation for the journal. In the 1980s he played an important part in promoting the changes in postgraduate training and as first Chairman of the Intercollegiate Board in Urology he launched the new FRCS (urol). The Yeates medal is awarded to the best candidate in this examination.

He had many interests outside his profession, as a collector of Scottish contemporary paintings and as an expert on Newcastle silver. He married in 1946 Jozy Fairweather, then a lecturer in German at Newcastle University. They had a son, Rodney, who headed a department of experimental pharmacokinetics for Pfizer, and a daughter, Deborah, who entered the medical profession and became a consultant radiologist at St Mary's Paddington. Keith Yeates died on 2 July 1992.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England