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Professor James David Edgar Knox FRCP Edin1

M, #17758, b. 12 March 1927, d. 10 August 2010
Last Edited: 2 Jul 2021
  • Birth*: Professor James David Edgar Knox FRCP Edin was born on 12 March 1927.1
  • Death*: He died on 10 August 2010 at age 83.1
  • Obituary: The obituary of Professor James David Edgar Knox FRCP Edin was was published in September 2010. Professor James David Edgar Knox, FRCP Edin

    Born: 12/03/1927
    Died: 10/08/2010
    Specialty: General Practice/Primary Care
    Designatory Letters: MB Edin 1949, MRCP Edin 1958, MD Edin 1967, FRCP Edin 1969, FRCGP 1979

    [Contributed by Emeritus Professor Peter Campion]

    Jimmy Knox, who died on 10th August 2010, was an outstanding pioneer academic in General Practice, holding the first chair in that discipline at the University of Dundee from 1970 until his retirement in 1992.

    He came to that post from a medical career that combined hospital medicine and general practice, having gained in 1967 the research degree of MD at his own university of Edinburgh, with a thesis entitled “Primary herpetic gingivo-stomatitis: clinical studies from general practice.”(1), establishing the clinical features of this common childhood infection. Having such credentials (he was also MRCP Ed, later FRCP Edin.) enabled Jimmy to both collaborate with and compete with the more established power-bases of the medical school. He succeeded in including in the emerging Dundee curriculum a significant place for primary care, with innovative early patient contact, communication skills, video and role play, and the beginnings of integrated learning across disciplines. All of this anticipated by many years the major reforms of “Tomorrow’s Doctors”.

    Jimmy’s William Pickles lecture of 1976 (2) rewards a re-reading, expounding both the caritas and the scientia of the RCGP’s motto. In his clinical practice and his academic work Jimmy amply displayed both. He knew and cared for the patients of the traditional Dundee practice he took over with Campbell Murdoch at the start of the academic department, and which soon moved into the new West Gate Health Centre, in the grounds of Ninewells hospital, becoming a part of the innovative integration of health service and medical school.

    Many of his published articles demonstrate “wisdom” – in his groundbreaking defence of academic primary care, “Trivia, Triage and Treatment” (3) he showed how highly relevant was general practice to undergraduate medical education. In others he warned against the loss of effective academic departments of general practice. In a 1975 paper (4) jointly with a marriage guidance counsellor, Jimmy showed how advanced he was in his thinking about “teamwork”, and what value he placed on multidisciplinary teaching and learning.

    As one member of the original team, this writer has vivid memories of the remarkable daily team meetings before surgeries started, which enabled us to model best practice for our students. All the GP tutors drawn from both city and rural practices, enjoyed an annual residential “away day”, held at a rather fine establishment in Alyth, funded through Jimmy’s enterprising but responsible relationship with industry.

    He encouraged and fostered all his academic colleagues: his two original appointees went on to chairs in primary care, and the department has gone from strength to strength.

    Jimmy Knox could be described as a “whole” person – he did not compartmentalise his life, but integrated his Christian faith, his love of music – he played the double bass, and his family into his whole life. The sudden death of his daughter cast a shadow over the family in 1985, but Jimmy kept strong. My own children grew up in Dundee with fond memories of “Professor Knox”, and so did generations of Dundee medical graduates.

    Peter Campion (Emeritus Professor of Primary Care Medicine, University of Hull)


    Knox, JDE. “Trench mouth in children.” Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 1968; 16:23-30 (link is external)

    Knox, JDE. “Peter Piper's peck.” Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 1976; 26:476-484 (link is external)

    Knox, JDE. “Trivia, triage, and treatment.” British Medical Journal, 1984;288:1504-6 (link is external)

    Neilson, DG, Knox, JDE. “General practitioners and marriage guidance counselling.” Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 1975;25:462-4 (link is external.)1



  1. [S142] https://www.rcpe.ac.uk/obituary/professor-james-david-edgar-knox-frcp-edin [July 2021].
  2. [S43] DGA Memorial Award Adamson family personal archives [June 2021].