CodeDS/UK/72
Person NamePhilip; Robert William (1857-1939); Sir; physician
Dates1857-1939
TitleSir
Epithetphysician
HistoryPhilip was born at Govan, Glasgow, on 29 December 1857. He was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and at Edinburgh University, where he took an arts MA degree before graduating MB, CM, with honours, in 1882.

In the winter of 1882-3 Philip travelled to Leipzig and Vienna to undertake postgraduate work in embryology and gynaecology. He arrived in Vienna shortly after Robert Koch announced the discovery of the tubercle bacillus, and Philip took the opportunity to review Koch's work and to see the bacillus for himself. After returning to Edinburgh in 1883, despite a number of posts including house physician to John Wyllie at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary he retained his interest in tuberculosis and embarked on a series of investigations that he wrote up into a thesis entitled 'A study in phthisis, etiological and therapeutic'. This earned him the Edinburgh University MD degree and gold medal in 1887. Philip hypothesized that the localized effects of the disease were only secondary manifestations of a systemic infection, the morbid effects of which were due primarily to the production and circulation of toxic bacterial waste-products.

Philip's views on the aetiology of tuberculosis, coupled with his exposure to the large numbers of tuberculous patients who attended the New Town Dispensary, convinced him that far more could be done to combat the disease, which was coming to be regarded as a major public health problem. Consequently in 1887, with the financial assistance of a number of his friends, he opened the Victoria Dispensary for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest, initially located in three rooms of a flat at 13 Bank Street, Edinburgh. He argued that the best way to treat tuberculosis patients was to build up their general constitution and thus enable them to resist the infection.

The dispensary was successful and in 1891 it moved to larger premises at 26 Lauriston Place, near to the Royal Infirmary and the medical school. In 1894 the Victoria Hospital for Consumption was opened at Craigleith, to provide institutional treatment for more advanced cases of tuberculosis. The therapeutic regime of the hospital was based on the system of fresh-air treatment that had already found favour in German sanatoria, and it was augmented by Philip's own scheme of rest, while the disease was active, and carefully modulated restorative exercise, as the patient began to recover.

In 1906 the Local Government Board for Scotland declared pulmonary tuberculosis a notifiable disease under the Public Health (Scotland) Act of 1897-an arrangement that Philip had advocated since 1890. In view of the increase in patients that came with this statutory responsibility, Edinburgh corporation agreed to provide £1000 per annum towards the costs of the hospital and dispensary.

With the adoption of the national tuberculosis scheme in Edinburgh, in 1914 the Royal Victoria Hospital, dispensary, and farm colony were gifted to the city corporation; Philip was retained as consultant and expert adviser to the corporation. Two years later a new body-the Royal Victoria Hospital Tuberculosis Trust-was created to take charge of the remaining funds and to continue work in areas not covered by the corporation scheme. In 1917 the trust endowed a chair of tuberculosis at the University of Edinburgh, and Philip became its first occupant. In 1920 his consultant post with the corporation was terminated, and he lost access to the facilities of the Royal Victoria Hospital. Consequently in 1922 the trust opened the new Sanatorium Colony at Liberton on the outskirts of Edinburgh for the treatment and employment of tuberculosis patients and the continuation of clinical research.

In 1887 he became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. He served as secretary to the college in 1894 and president from 1918 to 1923. After retiring from the presidency he became curator of the college's research laboratory, where he had conducted research since its inception in 1887; he held the curatorship until 1937. When the National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis was set up in 1898 by the Prince of Wales, Philip was appointed a member of the council; he became vice-chairman in 1912 and chairman in 1932.

Show related catalogue records.

    Powered by CalmView© 2008-2017