Sir Bryan Donkin


BY the death, on July 20, at the ripe age of eighty-two years of Sir Horatio Bryan Donkin, the world has lost a sane psychologist and a clear and ratchal thinker. My first meeting with him was in the middle ’eighties, when he was dean of the Westminster Hospital, and I learned to appreciate his sterling qualities when, in my third year, I became his ward clerk. This was during what may be termed the first half of a life spent in the useful service of mankind, for he not long after forsook the practice of physic for a Government official position. As a teacher of medicine Donkin was not only clear and precise in his methods, but also possessed a broad outlook upon the duties of a physician which was in strong contrast with that of some of his colleagues on the hospital staff. To one who was mindful of the limitations imposed by medical tradition, this made work under his guidance a pleasure as well as a duty. It was my privilege in later life to realise still further the value of his friendship. The second part of his life was fully occupied by his duties as H.M. Commissioner of Prisons, duties which he took very seriously. Bringing to the post his deep knowledge of medicine and his very kindly nature, he succeeded in introducing more than one salutary reform in prison organisation. He was not one to whom the prisoner was merely a ‘bad lot’; he regarded him rather as a patient, and he was, with the late Dr. Mercier, one of the pioneers of the valuable work which has been done in the psychology of crime. He was medical adviser to the Prison Commission, and in 1910 delivered the Harveian oration of the Royal College of Physicians upon the subject of the inheritance of mental characters.

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YEARSLEY, M. Sir Bryan Donkin. Nature 120, 306 (1927) doi:10.1038/120306a0

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