• Leonardo Studies

Leonardo Studies


Kim H. Veltman

In Memoriam - Dr. Kenneth D. Keele, M.D., F.R.C.P.

Newsletter for Leonardisti, Bowling Green, Vol. 5, No. 3, (1987) pp. 5-6.
Reprinted: Raccolta Vinciana, Milan, Vol. 23, (1989), pp. 407-411.

The Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine was Dr. Keele's spiritual home. Many knew of him mainly as a medical man. Trained as a cardiologist, he became a Harley Street physician at 25. In the 1930's he devised one of the first devices for measuring pain quantitatively and wrote papers on the problem of pain, several of which were quietly put into drawers until the 1980's when experts persuaded him to publish them as the frontiers of research.

While concerned with quantitative methods, new technologies and drugs, which he called the scientific side of medicine, he remained adamant that the humane side was equally important: that doctors must help patients to accept pain and suffering as realities which cannot simply be drugged away and must ultimately teach individuals how to die nobly and gracefully. Today the dignity of the patient is spoken of as if it were a new thing. But then as his wife, Mary, notes, most of his ideas were 50 years ahead of their time.

During the second world war he was in India where he headed sprue research, studying Hinduism and Buddhism on the side. In 1946 he returned to Britain, helped to set up a new hospital at Ashford, Middlesex; became involved in medical administration and remained there as a consultant until an early "retirement".

Dr. Keele was vitally interested in the history of medicine and played an important role in the development of this subject through his activities at the Wellcome Institute where Dr. F.N.L. Poynter was a close friend; as president of the History of Medicine section at the Royal Society of Medicine and by organizing courses at the Apothecaries Society. In addition he was active in the International Academy for the History of Medicine; was visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University, UCLA and Yale, where he was also the first Fulton Fellow (1979).

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