Biographical Sketch:  Dr. K. B. Roberts Return to John Clinch
Professor of the History of Medicine

Kenneth Bryson Roberts (1923- ), physician, professor, and first Associate Dean of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, was born in London, England, on 7 September 1923, the son of  William Charles and Mary Arabella Roberts (nee Pleace). Dr. Roberts married Ruth Mary (May) Catchpool (d. 15 February 2007), an architect, who was later employed by the Memorial University Planning Department where she was involved in the design of the Health Sciences Centre. Dr. and Mrs. Roberts had four children, Daniel, Peter, Alison and Benjamin.

Dr. Roberts completed his early education at Emanuel School, Wandsworth, London, England. He next attended King’s College, University of London, London, England and graduated with an M.B., B.S. (Open Scholarship) 1945. The M.B., B.S.  is equivalent to the North American M.D.  Dr. Roberts continued his medical studies at Oxford University where he earned a B.A. (Honours Physiology) 1948 and a D.Phil. (Medicine) 1952. His supervisor for the D.Phil. (Medicine) was nobel laureate Sir Howard W. Florey, who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945 with co-researchers Sir Alexander Fleming and Ernest Chain.  

Dr. Roberts held many academic and professional appointments throughout his career including: research worker, School of Pathology, and lecturer in physiology, Exeter College, Oxford University (1948-1955); associate professor of physiology, Medical College, Baghdad (1955-1956); and lecturer, then senior lecturer in physiology, University of Edinburgh, Scotland (1956-1961). Dr. Roberts held several appointments at the University of London, the London Hospital Medical School (LHMS) including: senior lecturer in physiology (1961-1964), and then reader in physiology (1964-1968); member, Academic Board (1964-1965); advisor on animal houses; and vice-chairman, Staff Association. Dr. Roberts received a Nuffield Foundation grant for an Experimental Teaching Programme in Cell Biology for B.Sc. Students (1966-1968). He was a visiting professor of physiology, Medical School, Coimbator, Tamil Nadu, India (1988).

 Dr. Roberts was the second person appointed to the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University when he became the first Associate Dean of Medicine (1968-1973). He also served as Associate Dean for Basic Medical Sciences (1973-1974). He resigned from his position as Associate Dean for Basic Medical Sciences in 1 October 1974 and took a sabbatical for a year. Dr. Roberts then returned and devoted himself to research and full-time teaching as professor of physiology.

Dr. Roberts was instrumental in the development of the medical school library which received official recognition as a medical library in 1969. He was the first John Clinch Professor of the History of Medicine, a position which allowed him to collect and care for valuable medical texts, produce historical lectures, and teach special history of medicine courses (1978-1988).  The historical collection of the Health Sciences Library is officially named the Dr. K.B. Roberts Historical Collection.  He was honoured as Emeritus Professor in 1988. 

Dr. Roberts served on several Memorial University committees including: chair and member, charter member of Planning Committee, Faculty of Medicine; board member, Institute of Social and Economic Research; co-organizer, with Dr. P.A. Hansen of the President’s Colloquium on Scholarship in Teaching (1992). 

Dr. Roberts also served on a number of national and international organizations and committees including: Review Committee for the Curriculum, University of Edinburgh; member and executive committee member, Medical Research Council of Canada; chair, Scientific Committee, Canadian Heart Foundation; and member, executive committee member and honorary life member, Canadian Society of the History of Medicine 

Dr. Roberts was the founder and original editor of the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History and the associate editor of Advances in Physiology Education (American Journal of Physiology). He has also contributed to a number of academic publications and journals including: The Journal of Physiology; the Journal of Experimental Physiology; Nature; and the British Medical Journal 

Dr. Roberts co-authored, with MUN colleague J.D.W. Tomlinson, The Fabric of the Body: European Traditions of Anatomical Illustration (this book was nominated for the Glaxo Prize for the best illustrated medical test of 1992).  He has also contributed to the following books: General Pathology, ed. H.W. Florey; 4 editions of Introduction to Molecular Biology, ed. G.H. Haggis; and two editions of Companion to Medical Studies, ed. R. Passmore and Robson; and others. 

Dr. Roberts is now living in England. 

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