S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Franks, Dr Sir Kendal Matthew St John (surgery)

Born: 8 February 1851, Dublin, Ireland.
Died: 30 April 1920, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Dr Sir Kendal Matthew St John Franks

Kendal Franks, surgeon, was the son of Robert F. Franks and his wife Henriette Bushe. He studied at Trinity College, University of Dublin, from 1867, obtaining first honours in mathematics and experimental science for several years running, and was awarded the degree Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1872. Next he studied medicine in the university's School of Physics and in the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, graduating as Bachelor of Medicine (MB) and qualifying as a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland in 1875. After further medical studies at Leipzig, Germany, he was appointed demonstrator in anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons and surgeon to the Dublin Throat and Ear Hospital in 1876. That same year he qualified as Doctor of Medicine (MD). Two years later he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland and was appointed senior surgeon to the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin, a post he held for 18 years during which he introduced the use of aseptic and aniseptic procedures. After serving on the council of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland for many years he was elected its vice-president in 1896. At this time he was also vice-president of the Dublin branch of the British Medical Association, vice-president of the Dublin University Biological Association, an examiner in surgery in the university, and a very prominent surgeon. His publications included The germ theory (Dublin, 1883, 26p); Table of 222 cases of gangrenous hernia treated by resection and immediate suture of the intestine (not dated); and several papers in medical journals: "Laryngeal polypus treated by laryngotomy and subsequent evulsion and cauterisation" (1879), "Addison's disease" (1882), "On spontaneous dislocation of the hip" (1883), "A case of cerebral cyst" (1888) and "Professor Koch's treatment of tuberculosis" (1891). Throughout his career he published some 50 medical papers, most of them on surgical topics. In 1879 he married Charlotte S. Greene, with whom he had three sons and a daughter. Two years after her death in 1883 he married Gertrude J. Butt. She developed tuberculosis and was advised to move to South Africa for its healthy climate. The family settled in Beaufort West in 1896, but Gertrude died the same year.

Franks moved to Johannesburg in 1897 and was admitted to practice in the South African Republic (Transvaal) the same year. In February 1899 he was admitted to practice also in the Cape Colony. During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) he was attached to the staff of Lord Roberts as honorary consulting surgeon. Travelling to England with Roberts in 1901 he was honoured as a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) for his services. Upon returning to South Africa that same year he inspected and reported on all the concentration camps at the request of Lord Kitchener. He was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in 1904. During the next few years he drew attention to the unsatisfactory provision made for public health in the Transvaal Colony and in the legislation establishing the Union of South Africa, and proposed a hospital scheme for the Witwatersrand. In 1908 he was president of the Transvaal Branch of the British Medical Association. Later he was also president of the newly established South African committee of the British Medical Association and in April 1913 laid the foundation stone of the building to house the South African Institute for Medical Research. That same year he presided over the South African Medical Congress held in Johannesburg. In March 1916 he chaired a meeting of the Witwatersrand Branch of the British Medical Association at which the establishment of a medical school in Johannesburg was proposed.

Franks was consulting surgeon to the Johannesburg General Hospital, consulting surgeon to the Central South African Railways, and medical director of the African Life Assurance Society. He was considered the first specialist surgeon in Johannesburg and a world expert on renal surgery. His publications included the following papers in the Transvaal Medical Journal: "Reminiscences and experiences of the antiseptic system" (1908, Vol. 3, pp. 224-230), dealing mainly with the introduction of antiseptic surgery by the English surgeon Lord Joseph Lister (1827-1912); "The position of the medical profession, with special reference to South Africa" (1909, Vol. 5, pp. 87-96); and "The position of the medical profession under Union" (1910, Vol. 5, pp. 159-166). Subsequent papers by him appeared in the Medical Journal of South Africa. He was a Fellow of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of London and of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Ireland, and an early member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science. After the joint meeting of the British and South African Associations for the Advancement of Science in South Africa in 1905 he acted as sub-editor for physiology of the Addresses and papers... published after the meeting. In 1913 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa. He was a sympathetic and tactful man with a polished manner who painted water colours in his spare time. During the last few years of his life his health was poor as a result of diabetes.

List of sources:
Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 5, 1987.

Google scholar. http://scholar.google.co.za Publications by K. Franks.

Malan, M. In quest of health: The South African Institute for Medical Research, 1912-1973. Johannesburg: Lowry, 1988.

Medical and pharmacy register for the colony of the Cape of Good Hope, 1907.

Medical, dental and pharmacy register for the Transvaal, 1907.

Men of the times: Pioneers of the Transvaal and glimpses of South Africa. Johannesburg: Transvaal Publishing Company, 1905.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Kendall Franks / K.M.StJ. Franks / Dr Franks / Sir K. Franks.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository, Vol. NMC 34: [Lists of medical practitioners, etc. registered in the Transvaal as on 31 December 1914, and in the Province of the Cape of Good Hope as on 31 December 1915].

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

Royal Society of South Africa. Transactions, Vol. 6, 1917, list of Fellows and members.

South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Report, 1903, 1905/6, 1910: Lists of members.

Staats-almanak der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, 1896, pp. 96-100: Naamlijst van de geadmitteerde genees-, heel- en verloskundigen...

Transvaal Medical Journal, 1907-1910, Vol. 3 and 5: papers by Franks.

Who was who, Vol. 2, 4th ed. London: Adam & Black, 1967.

Compiled by: C. Plug