Obituary: Professor Kenneth Lowe

Kenneth Gordon Lowe, distinguished professor of medicine, pioneer of renal dialysis and cardiology, and physician to the Queen in Scotland. Born: 29 May, 1917, in Arbroath. Died: 13 August, 2010, in West Ferry, Dundee, aged 93.

Professor Kenneth Lowe, a pioneer in nephrology and cardiology, was consultant physician in Dundee from 1952 to 1982, where he taught thousands of medical students and trainee doctors.

Born in Arbroath and educated at its High School, he achieved first place in open bursary competitions for St Andrews University and University College Dundee and was awarded a Harkness Residential Scholarship. He graduated MB, ChB with Commendation in 1941, shared the Low Gold Medal with Nancy Young, and married her.

In 1942 he assisted Professor Dan Cappell in the Pathology Department to set up Dundee's first blood transfusion service. Joining the Royal Army Medical Corps he specialised in tropical diseases and served in the Caribbean, India, Egypt and Panama.

Rejoining his family in London after the war, he resumed postgraduate training and was medical registrar at the Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital from 1947 to 1951. There he worked with Graham Bull and Mark Joekes on Britain's first artificial kidney machine, invented by Kolff in the Netherlands. Their pioneering studies on the pathology, outcome and treatment of acute renal failure were published in the Lancet and in Clinical Science.

Ken Lowe was awarded the Rutherford Gold Medal for his MD (Honours) thesis on these studies by the University of St Andrews in 1950. He became a Member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1951, and Fellow in 1954.

In 1952 he was appointed Senior Lecturer in Medicine at St Andrews University and Honorary Consultant Physician at Dundee Royal Infirmary (later Ninewells Hospital). He passed on his interest in renal failure to Bill Stewart, and developed a metabolic clinic with Stewart and Gemmell Morgan. He published on hypercalcaemia in infancy, and was a member of the Medical Research Council committee which recommended reducing the vitamin D content in dietary prevention of rickets. His research interests turned to cardiology, the main interest of Professor Ian Hill's department of medicine. His pioneering studies of intra-cardiac electrocardiography (with Donald Emslie-Smith and Hamish Watson) included a key paper on His bundle recording in the American Heart Journal in 1967, which attracted wide attention and led ultimately to much better understanding of cardiac arrhythmias and heart block, and in due course to therapeutic cardiac ablation techniques and improved cardiac pacemakers. After ten years of giving the daily 9 o'clock lectures in medicine to Dundee's students, Ken Lowe became a full-time consultant physician in the health service in 1961 but continued in the University as honorary reader, then honorary professor. He was president of the St Andrews and Dundee University Medical Societies and took a keen interest in his students and trainees - many of whom continued to visit him and correspond for years. In 2003 he received an honorary Doctor of Science award from the University of St Andrews Medical School.

Ken Lowe was a founder committee member of the Scottish Society of Physicians, and was its president in 1973. He was a member of the board of management for Dundee General Hospitals, the first chairman of its Division of Medicine and also the first chairman of Tayside Regional Postgraduate Medical Committee. He was appointed Physician to the Queen in Scotland in 1971 and was made Commander of the Victorian Order on his retirement in 1982.

As a general physician for 30 years, Ken Lowe was widely respected and his opinion often sought by colleagues across Tayside. Like his sister, Alison Kiddie (for many years the Sister in Dundee Royal Infirmary's Eye Ward) he had a constant commitment to his wards and patients. His daily hospital visits (broken only by occasional family holidays in the Scottish Highlands) would not be comprehended or sanctioned by today's European Working Times Directive which limits doctors to a 48-hour week.

Always mentally and physically active into his tenth decade, he read widely, completed the Times crossword, tended his beautiful garden in West Ferry and walked along the shores of the River Tay. He loved fly-fishing and after retirement, travelled extensively worldwide with Nancy. He leaves his daughter Alison, sons Gordon and Graham and his five grandchildren.