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Byrne, Patrick (1913-1980)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2134 B/BYR
Held at: Royal College of General Practitioners
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Full title: Byrne, Patrick (1913-1980)
Date(s): 1946-1986
Level of description: Fonds
Extent: 13 boxes
Name of creator(s): Patrick Sarsfield Byrne (1913-1980)


Administrative/Biographical history:

Patrick Sarsfield Byrne was born on 17 April 1913 in Birkenhead, son of John Stephen Byrne, butcher, and Marie Ann Byrne. He attended St Edward's College, Liverpool, between 1923-1930, having won one of two Birkenhead Town scholarships. In 1930 he won a state scholarship, to study at the University of Liverpool. In 1936 he graduated MB, ChB. During his time at Liverpool he was awarded a gold medal in surgery, won several clinical prizes, and was the first holder of a cup for debating. Byrne never lost his debating skills and in later years this, along with his political awareness, kept him ahead of his colleagues on the many committees on which he sat. After a locum tenens post with Dr Caldwell in August 1936, Byrne became a General Practitioner in Milnthorpe, Westmorland, where he practised until he moved to Manchester in 1968. He continued working as a General Practitioner, although on a much smaller scale due to other commitments, until his retirement in 1978, at the Darbishire House Teaching Health Centre.

Byrne began lecturing at Manchester University Medical School in 1965, and in 1968 became the Director of the newly created Department of General Practice, the establishment of which had been largely Byrne's responsibility. The pioneering work in medical education, initiated in the Department, led his discipline into education and training. He was the first to run courses for general practitioner teachers in 1966, and worked at emphasising the needs of medical teachers themselves. His last book, 'Doctors Talking to Patients' (1976), written jointly with B.E.L. Long, was an extremely significant piece of work which provided a scientific analysis based on a multitude of real consultations in real general practice. At the time the Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners predicted that the book would act as a springboard for new discoveries for the doctor/patient relationship. In 1972 he became Chair at Manchester and so the first Professor of General Practice in England. He retired, and was made Professor Emeritus, in 1978.

Patrick Byrne was a founder member of the College of General Practitioners in 1952 (the Royal College of General Practitioners from 1967) and was Chairman and Provost of the North-West England Faculty, between 1966-68 and 1968-70 respectively. He Chaired the Education Committee of Council for six years, between 1964-70, and was subsequently Vice-Chairman of Council, 1965-66, and Chairman of the Board of Censors and Chief Examiner, 1967-73. Byrne served as President of the College from 1973 to 1976.

Byrne was arguably one of the most influential general practitioner authors in the world, producing a proliferation of articles, published in a variety of medical journals, discussing and evaluating the various teaching methods employed at the Department of General Practice. He was a member of the College Working Party which wrote the important work 'The Future General Practitioner - Learning and Teaching' (1972, RCGP). He co-authored several books, including 'The Assessment of Postgraduate Training for General Practice' (1976) and 'The Assessment of Vocational Training for General Practice, Reports from General Practice No. 17' (1976), both with J. Freeman, and 'Learning to Care' (1976), written jointly with B.E.L. Long. In addition to this he co-edited 'A Handbook for Medical Treatment' (1976, Proctor and Byrne) and 'A Textbook of Medical Practice' (1977, Fry et al.).

Byrne was also Chairman of the Working Party of the Leeuwenhorst Group, which had a membership of 11 European countries. The Group's aim was to create a definition of the role of the General Practitioner which would be acceptable to doctors in the eleven countries the group represented, and would serve as a basis for training programmes. The Working Party produced several important statements defining general practice, and more precisely the role of the General Practitioner. The definition has stood the test of time, remaining the best-known one in most European countries. Byrne was also advisor in General Practice to the DHSS in 1972, and took on the role of advisor to the British Council and many foreign governments, advising on medical education and the establishing of Departments or Colleges of General Practice, during his visits abroad.

Byrne received many awards in later life and gave numerous eponymous lectures. He delivered the first William Pickles Lecture at the Royal College of General Practitioners, and the Gale Memorial Lecture, in 1968, and in 1971 gave the W. Victor Johnston Memorial Oration, to the College of Family Physicians of Canada. Byrne was also the first general practitioner to give the William Marsden Lecture at the Royal Free Hospital London, in 1974, whilst in 1975 he was the David Lloyd Hughes Memorial Lecturer at Liverpool.

He was also honoured overseas by the awarding of the Hippocratic medal of the SIMG (International Society for General Practice) in 1963, and the Sesquicentennial medal of the Medical University of South Carolina, 1974. He was made Honorary Fellow of the College of Medicine in South Africa in 1975, and given Honorary Membership of the College of Family Physicians of Canada in 1976. At home he was appointed OBE in 1966, and CBE in 1975.

In 1937 he married Dr Kathleen Pearson, a fellow student from Liverpool University. Between 1938 and 1952 they had 2 sons and 4 daughters. Byrne died suddenly at his home, barely 18 months after he had retired, on 25 February 1980.


Scope and content/abstract:

Professional papers relating to Byrne's work as a General Practitioner, consisting of diaries and correspondence, 1947-80, material relating to his work at Manchester, 1960-78, in the Department of General Practice, which he was fundamental in establishing in 1968, including lecture notes, reports, speeches made to external bodies to promote the work of the Department, and material relating to his Chair, 1972-78, papers relating to the Royal College of General Practitioners, 1964-76, including papers relating to the committees on which he sat, including the Education Committee and the Board of Censors, and material relating to the duties undertaken during his presidency, 1973-76, correspondence with faculties of the College and other General Practice colleges worldwide, reports and correspondence relating to other commitments, 1946-86, such as the Leeuwenhorst Group and the local and regional medical advisory committees on which he sat, lecture notes and related correspondence from visits made abroad.

Biographic material includes personal notes, financial papers, correspondence relating to his award of OBE and CBE, and photographs.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:


Conditions governing access:

Access is at the discretion of the Royal College of General Practitioners. Requests for access should be made in writing to The Archivist, Royal College of General Practitioners, 14 Princes Gate, Hyde Park, London, SW7 1PU

Conditions governing reproduction:

For further information on reproduction contact The Archivist, Royal College of General Practitioners, 14 Princes Gate, Hyde Park, London, SW7 1PU

Finding aids:

Catalogued to file level on dbtextworks database available for consultation in Royal College of General Practitioners library.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Collection donated by Dr Kathleen Pearson, Byrne's wife, April 1993. Additional papers donated, March 1998, and 1990.

Allied Materials

Related material:

RCGP Central Department Records GB 2134 ACE

Manchester Medical Collection, John Rylands Library, Manchester, GB-0133-MMC, holds material relating to Professor Byrne (the collection consists of biographical information collected by the Manchester Medical Society, about Manchester related doctors. Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine GP/54 Byrne, Patrick S and Byrne (nee Pearson), Kathleen M, general practitioners, Manchester. Diaries and other papers 1934-1978

Publication note:

The Life of Professor P.S. Byrne', John Findlater (1996, Royal College of General Practitioners.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Catalogued by Katherine Williams October 2002

Rules or conventions:
National council on Archives, rules for the construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997; ISAD(G), Second Edition, 2000

Date(s) of descriptions:
October 2002

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