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Jamieson, Kenneth Grant (1925–1976)

by M. D. Cobcroft

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Kenneth Grant Jamieson (1925-1976), neurosurgeon, was born on 2 January 1925 at Hawthorn, Melbourne, second child of Victorian-born parents Aubrey Carlyle Jamieson, machinery merchant, and his wife Christina, née Grant. Educated (on a scholarship) at Scotch College, Ken excelled academically and as a rower. He won further scholarships to Ormond College and the University of Melbourne (M.B., B.S., 1948; M.S., 1954). At the Frank Paton Memorial Church, Deepdene, on 26 March 1949 he married with Presbyterian forms Margaret Irene MacKinlay. In December 1948 Jamieson had joined the Royal Melbourne Hospital where he developed a fascination for neurosurgery. In 1953-54, while completing his masterate, he was a half-time research scholar at the Baker Medical Research Institute, Alfred Hospital, and held teaching positions in surgery and pathology at the University of Melbourne.

Following a brief term as a locum tenens in Perth and a study-trip to Europe and North America, Jamieson was appointed to the (Royal) Brisbane Hospital in 1956. He established a neurosurgical unit (1960) which became the department of neurology and neurosurgery (1962). A man of prodigious energy, he fostered a team-management approach to patients, involving the participation of medical, nursing and ancillary personnel. Jamieson was also noted for his clinical acumen and dexterous surgery, and pioneered techniques to reach previously inaccessible regions in the treatment of pineal tumours and arterial aneurysms. Particularly interested in head injuries, mostly due to motor vehicle accidents, he was appalled by the lack of safety precautions which had contributed to them. He led scientific research into these injuries and their treatment through the traffic injury committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council (1961), the road trauma committee of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons and the interim committee of the Australian Resuscitation Council (1976). Largely due to his lobbying, the State parliament introduced legislation imposing limits to drivers' blood-alcohol level (1968), and governing the wearing of crash-helmets by motorcyclists (1970) and seat belts in motor vehicles (1972).

In addition to his commitments at R.B.H., Jamieson provided advice and practical assistance for country doctors faced with emergency treatment of head injuries. With little time to develop a private practice, he shared an operating list one evening each week at St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital. He maintained a keen interest in surgical teaching and administration: he was a member (from 1971) of the council of the R.A.C.S. and was elected to the court of examiners in neurosurgery in 1974. President (1971-73) of the Neurosurgical Society of Australasia, he wrote A First Notebook of Head Injury (1965), seven monographs and over fifty scientific papers. In 1973 he delivered the Joseph Bancroft oration to the Queensland branch of the Australian Medical Association. A fellow of the R.A.C.S. (1963) and of the American College of Surgeons (1970), he was awarded a doctorate of medicine by the University of Melbourne in 1967 and a doctorate of surgery by the University of Queensland in 1975.

Of deep religious conviction, Jamieson was a regular worshipper at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Brisbane. He was a councillor of the Presbyterian/Methodist Schools' Association and member of the board of governors of St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital, where he also chaired the planning committee. Survived by his wife, son and five daughters, he died of myocardial infarction on 28 January 1976 in R.B.H. and was cremated. In October the neurosurgical unit he had founded at the hospital was named after him. He was posthumously awarded the R.A.C.S. medal and the 1976 meeting of the Queensland committee of the R.A.C.S. was dedicated to his memory.

Select Bibliography

  • M. D. Cobcroft, 'More than anybody', in J. Pearn (ed), Milestones of Australian Medicine (Brisb, 1994)
  • Scotch Collegian, 1942, 1943
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 26 June 1976, p 1017
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 29 Jan 1976
  • Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Archives, Melbourne.

Citation details

M. D. Cobcroft, 'Jamieson, Kenneth Grant (1925–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jamieson-kenneth-grant-10612/text18859, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 21 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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