Inglis, William Keith

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MB 1911 ChM 1912 MD 1917

William Keith Inglis was the first Director of the Kanematsu Memorial Institute of Pathology in 1933.

William Keith Inglis was born in Sydney in 1888 and after graduating from medicine in 1911, he took up a Residency at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and worked as a part-time demonstrator in pathology at the University of Sydney.

In 1914 he was appointed as a full-time demonstrator, a position he maintained whilst serving in the Militia as Senior Medical Officer, Bathurst Camp. During this time, he undertook his doctorate and wrote his thesis, ‘Agglutination after the Administration of Typhoid and Paratyphoid Vaccines’, for which he won the University Medal and gained the attention of the military authorities. In 1917, he was stationed in France as a pathologist with the 3rd Australian General Hospital in Abbeville and the 2nd Australian General Hospital in Boulogne. According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography:

He performed numerous post-mortem examinations. The problems he encountered with dysentery and trench fever led to his first publications. In London, from October 1918, Inglis collected and prepared pathological examples (from army surgical and autopsy material) which were shipped to Australian medical museums. Letters to his wife discussed his increasing fondness for pathological work and his ambition to become a specialist, “even though the remuneration would be much less… than I could earn in private practice.”[1]

Keith returned to Sydney in 1919, and his specimens were sent to museums and universities in every state. He resumed demonstrating in 1920 and was promoted to the position of Lecturer and Chief Demonstrator (part-time) in 1922. Two years later, Keith was placed in charge of the Department of Pathology at Sydney Hospital. He retained his University post and fulfilled the obligations of both positions with success. He was rewarded for his good work at Sydney Hospital and the excellence of his teaching at the University by being appointed as the first Director of the Kanematsu Memorial Institute of Pathology (as it was then called) at Sydney Hospital in 1934.

Following the retirement of Professor Welsh[1], the Senate fixed the salary of the Chair of Pathology at £1500 per annum1 with a view to securing another first-class pathologist. The vacancy was advertised throughout Great Britain and Australasia and in 1936, Keith was appointed.

He took up his work in a vastly different environment from that which confronted Welsh on his arrival in Sydney. He was relieved of the teaching of bacteriology, immunology and protozoology, and inherited a going concern with well-trained staff in the relatively spacious area allotted to pathology in the New Medical School. Keith brought to the Chair of pathology a breadth of experience in both the practice and teaching of pathology. His teaching was characterised by meticulous and logical planning and very lavish illustration with specimens. Coupled with his expertise in his professional subject, was a belief that those who taught or practised medicine must never lose sight of the importance of the humanities. In 1938, he was a Founding Member of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. During World War II, he was responsible for Service Pathology at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. As Cossart notes:

His opinion in difficult cases was highly valued by his peers. Characteristically, he examined microscope sections and formed a view before reading the clinical history, and his reports always indicated any lingering doubts he had about his diagnosis. Intellectual integrity was the hallmark of his work and it influenced generations of pathologists associated with the Sydney school.[1]

Keith continued the close University association with Prince Alfred Hospital which had been established by his predecessor until 1946, but then severed the ties between the two pathology departments. He retired in 1952.[1]

Keith had been a Director of Sydney Hospital since 1946 and, ironically, collapsed and died during a meeting as he was speaking in defence of the independence of the Kanematsu Institute.

Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Inglis, William Keith. Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive, University of Sydney.

An alternate version appears in: Young, J A, Sefton, A J, Webb, N. Centenary Book of the University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine, (1984) Sydney University Press for The University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine.