Kenneth William Donald
Born(1911-11-25)25 November 1911
Died17 July 1994(1994-07-17) (aged 82)
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Occupation(s)Physician and professor of medicine
Known forPioneering use (in 1953) of
cardiac catheterization in the study
of exercise physiology[1][2]

Kenneth William Donald OBE DSC FRCP FRCPE (1911–1994) was a British physician, surgeon, pulmonologist, cardiologist, professor of medicine, and leading expert on underwater physiology and exercise physiology.[3][2]


After education at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and St Bartholomew's Hospital, he qualified MRCS, LRCP in 1936 and graduated MB BChir (Cantab.) in 1938. After house appointments, he joined the Royal Navy in 1939. He was Surgeon Lieutenant aboard HMS Hotspur during the first naval Battle of Narvik in April 1940.[3] He was awarded the DSC in June 1940.

In 1942 he was transferred to work on underwater physiology, an event which was to shape much of his subsequent career. Naval divers had only recently begun to use pure oxygen and suffered from oxygen poisoning, the cause and mechanism of which was little understood. In the Admiralty diving unit, which he helped to establish, research was conducted which led to safe diving procedures, using oxygen-nitrogen mixtures under controlled conditions. This allowed the crews of midget submarines and especially divers involved in the clearance of mines in captured ports to carry out their hazardous work.[3]

Donald graduated MD in 1945.[3] From 1946 to 1948 he worked at St Bartholomew's Hospital as chief assistant to Ronald Christie[2] and worked with Christie's research group[4] on the physiology of chronic lung disease. From 1948 to 1949 Donald was a Rockefeller fellow at Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital, where he worked with the Nobel prize winner André Cournand. Donald also collaborated there with Richard L. Riley (1911–2001) on research involving "ventilation-perfusion relationships and gas diffusion at the alveolo-capillary membrane of the lungs."[3] After returning to England, Donald was from 1949 to 1950 a senior lecturer at the Royal Brompton Hospital. From 1950 to 1959 he was reader in medicine at the University of Birmingham Medical School.[2] At Birmingham he did research on pulmonary circulation, with a team including John Bishop, Gordon Cumming (1922–2001), Archie C. Pincock, and Owen Lyndon Wade (1921–2008).[3]

A striking finding was that in rheumatic heart disease the cardiac output did not increase much with exercise and sometimes not at all, although this could be reversed after successful valvotomy.[3]

From 1959 to 1976 Donald held the chair of medicine at the University of Edinburgh. His predecessor was Sir Stanley Davidson. Donald was dean of the faculty of medicine for three years.[3]

He gave the Bradshaw Lecture in 1958.[5] He was elected FRCP in 1952 and FRCPE in 1960.[3] In 1959 he was elected a member of the Harveian Society of Edinburgh and served as President in 1971.[6] He was from 1967 to 1976 physician to the Queen in Scotland and was from 1976 to 1977 president of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland.[2]

He retired in 1976. Upon his death he was survived by his widow.[3]

Selected publications


  1. ^ Wade OL (1993). "Cycling for health: forty years ago". Br Med J. 307 (6919): 1607–1608. doi:10.1136/bmj.307.6919.1607. PMC 1697761. PMID 8292956.
  2. ^ a b c d e Muir, A. L. (12 November 1994). "Obituary. K W Donald, DSC, OBE, DSc, MD, FRCP, FRCPED, FRSE". Br Med J. 309 (6964): 1296–1297. PMC 2541792.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Kenneth William Donald". Munk's Roll, Volume X, Royal College of Physicians.
  4. ^ "Ronald Victor Christie". Munk's Roll, Volume X, Royal College of Physicians.
  5. ^ Donald, Kenneth W. (18 April 1959). "Exercise and Heart Disease". Br Med J. 1 (5128): 985–994. doi:10.1136/bmj.1.5128.985. PMC 1993189. PMID 13638609.
  6. ^ Minute Books of the Harveian Society. Library of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.