Keate, Robert (DNB00)

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KEATE, ROBERT (1777–1857), surgeon, fourth son of William Keate, D.D., rector of Laverton, Somerset, and nephew of Thomas Keate [q. v.], was born at Laverton on 14 March 1777. John Keate [q. v.], headmaster of Eton, was an elder brother. Keate was educated at Bath grammar school till 1792, when he was apprenticed to his uncle, then surgeon-general to the army. He entered St. George's Hospital in April 1793, and was made ‘hospital mate’ at Chelsea Hospital in 1794. In May 1798 he became a member of the Surgeons' Corporation, and was appointed staff-surgeon in the army. He was early introduced to practice among the royal family, and later became sergeant-surgeon extraordinary to William IV, and in 1841 sergeant-surgeon to Queen Victoria. In later life he said: ‘I have attended four sovereigns, and have been badly paid for my services. One of them, now deceased, owed me nine thousand guineas.’ William IV always paid him and showed great confidence in him, but his frequent journeys to Windsor injured his practice. In 1800 Keate was appointed assistant-surgeon to his uncle at St. George's, and thenceforward did nearly all his work. He retired from the army in 1810 with the rank of inspector-general of hospitals. In 1813 he succeeded his uncle as full surgeon at St. George's, and held the post till 1853, outstaying his powers. He was a member of the council of the College of Surgeons for many years, examiner from 1827 to 1855, and president in 1830, 1831, and 1839. He died on 2 Oct. 1857 in Hertford Street, Mayfair, London, aged 80. He married the youngest daughter of H. Ramus, an Indian civil servant, by whom he left two sons and four daughters. One son, Robert William Keate (1814–1873), educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, was civil commissioner of the Seychelles in 1849, lieutenant-governor of Grenada (1853–6), governor of Trinidad (1857–60), and afterwards of Natal (1867–72), and of the Gold Coast (1872–3) (Times, 23 April 1873).

Keate, although a first-rate operator, endeavoured to avoid operations. He wrote nothing except some papers in the ‘Medico-Chirurgical Transactions,’ vols. x. and xxxii. Sir Benjamin Brodie speaks highly of his personal character, but he grew irritable in later life. There is a portrait of him at St. George's Hospital.

[Lancet and Medical Times, 17 Oct. 1857; St. George's Hospital Reports, i. 22; J. F. Clarke's Autobiographical Recollections, pp. 378, 387, 511; Sir B. Brodie's Autobiography, pp. 76, 79, 132.]

G. T. B.