Dr John Wharry Dundee

Personal Details


08/11/1921 to 01/12/1991

Place of birth: Ballynure, Larne, Northern Ireland

Nationality: British

CRN: 715775

Also known as: John

Education and qualifications

General education

Ballyclare High School, NI; Queen’s University, Belfast

Primary medical qualification(s)

MBChB BAO, Queen’s University (Belfast), 1946

Initial Fellowship and type

FFARCS by Election

Year of Fellowship


Other qualification(s)

DA(RCPSI), 1948; MD with Commendation, Belfast, 1951 (Thesis: Sensitivity to, and detoxication of, thiopentone); DA(RCPS), 1950; PhD, Liverpool, 1957 (Thesis: Thiopentone and other thiobarbiturates); MRCP, 1975, (F 1984)

Professional life and career

Postgraduate career

Early appointments were as house surgeon, house physician and resident anaesthetist at the City Hospital Londonderry, after which he was also resident anaesthetist at Walton Hospital, Liverpool. In 1950 he was appointed Lecturer in Anaesthesia in Liverpool (spending a year in Pennsylvania) and then, two years later, consultant anaesthetist to Walton and United Liverpool Hospitals. In 1958 he returned to Northern Ireland to start an academic department in Belfast, becoming its first professor in 1964, a post he held until retirement in 1987.

Professional interests and activities

Starting with his higher degrees John Dundee pursued a career-long programme of clinical pharmacological studies (actively encouraging others to contribute) using the ‘model’ of the patient undergoing a minor gynaecological procedure. He started with the barbiturates, then went on to other induction agents, and later just about every other class of drug used in anaesthesia, producing over 600 papers in 30 years. However, he had wider interests: hypothermia for neurosurgical anaesthesia while in Liverpool; back in Belfast developing an interest in chronic pain and also establishing the first intensive care unit in Northern Ireland (just in time for the onset of civil unrest); an enthusiastic teacher, he started both clinical meetings & courses for the Fellowship.

After retirement he studied the use of acupuncture as an anti-emetic for cancer chemotherapy. In addition he made considerable contributions to the organisations of the specialty. A foundation Fellow (1959) of the Irish Faculty he was Board member, examiner & Dean (1970-73), and ensured that it was an all-Ireland organisation. In the UK he was elected to Faculty Board & AAGBI Council, President of the Section of Anaesthetics, RSM (1979-80), member of the Board of the BJA, an active member of the research societies and a long-term member of the Committee on the Safety of Medicines.

Other biographical information

Ulster, his family, the Presbyterian Church and music were his major interests. Early on, he was accompanist to the Ballyclare Male Voice Choir, worked with ENSA during WW2 (one tour was with Ivy Benson’s Girls’ Band), and was a part-time church organist throughout his life. He travelled widely, his interest in acupuncture coming after a visit to China. He married Sarah (Sally) Irwin Houston and they had a son (who sadly predeceased them) and three daughters. He was awarded the OBE in 1989.

Author and sources

Author: Dr Robert Palmer & Prof Tony Wildsmith

Sources and any other comments: Clarke RSJ at http://munksroll.rcplondon.ac.uk/Biography/Details/1363 (Prof Clarke (aided by Prof Rajinder Mirakhur) kindly reviewed this script, as did Mrs Ann Cobbe (daughter) and Ms Jennifer Cobbe (grand-daughter) | Adams A. John Wharry Dundee 1921-71. Proc Hist Anaes Soc 1992; 11: 62-3 | Medical Directory | Dr Declan Warde kindly checked information at the Irish College