Arpan K. Banerjee
John Keats, born in London in 1795, is one of the finest Romantic poets of the English language. He died at the age of twenty-five in Rome, where he had gone to recover from tuberculosis. The house where he spent the last years of his life, at the base of the Spanish Steps, is now the Keats–Shelley Memorial House Museum.
In 1815, Keats became a medical student at Guy’s Hospital in London and also attended the anatomy lectures given by the famous surgeon Sir Astley Cooper at St. Thomas’s Hospital. At the time, the two hospitals were close to one another in the London borough of Southwark. Keats worked as a dresser, but soon came to realize his heart was in poetry, not medicine. His first published poem was “O Solitude” in 1816 in The Examiner.
In the 1870s, St. Thomas’s moved from its site near Guy’s to Lambeth (less than two miles away), where it overlooked the House of Parliament. Queen Victoria had laid the foundation stone in 1868. The hospital remains at this site in a greatly expanded form. The remnant of the old operating theatre on St. Thomas’s Street in Southwark is today a museum. Guy’s Hospital joined St. Thomas’s Hospital in the early 1990s, and today the two hospitals along with King’s College Hospital are a part of the new King’s College GKT Medical School in London.
In 2007, a bronze statue of Keats, one of the most famous alumni of Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Hospitals, was unveiled within the grounds of the old Guy’s Hospital. Dr. Robert Knight (1932–2005), a former consultant physician at Guy’s and a Keats scholar, had long championed the commission. When Knight died, the money that was donated in his memory along with other donations and charitable funds enabled this to happen. The sculptor was Stuart Williamson, a former senior sculptor for Madame Tussaud’s London. The unveiling was conducted by poet Andrew Motion, who was at that time the British Poet Laureate and one of Keats’ many biographers. The statue on the Guy’s Hospital campus is open to all visitors.
- Banerjee AK. “John Keats: His Medical Student Years at the United Hospitals of Guy’s and St Thomas’ 1815-1816.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 1989;82 (10):620-621.
DR. ARPAN K. BANERJEE qualified in medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School. London. He was a consultant radiologist in Birmingham 1995–2019. He was President of the radiology section of the RSM 2005–2007 and on the scientific committee of the Royal College of Radiologists 2012–2016. He was Chairman of the British Society for the History of Radiology 2012–2017. He is Chairman of ISHRAD. He is author/co-author of papers on a variety of clinical, radiological, and medical historical topics and seven books, including Classic Papers in Modern Diagnostic Radiology (2005) and The History of Radiology (OUP 2013).