Papers of Professor John Munro Kerr

Scope and Content

Personal documents collated by Professor John Munro Kerr recording important events during his life, including birth and wedding certificates, life assurance policies, professional certificates and commissions, and related correspondence, together with his award-certificate for the Katherine Bishop Harman Prize for Maternal Mortality and Morbidity. The collection also includes certificates issued by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists for the award of Foundation Fellowship (1929) and Honorary Fellowship (1947), and a printed excerpt from the minutes of a meeting of the Senate of the University of Glasgow on Professor Munro Kerr's retirement as Regius Professor of Midwifery (1934), together with correspondence with peers encouraging him to seek the chair of midwifery, University of Edinburgh (1922) and relating to the publication of 'Operative Obstetrics' and 'Historical Review'.

Administrative / Biographical History

Professor John Martin Munro Kerr (1868-1960) was an obstetrician and gynaecologist, and Regius Professor of Midwifery at the University of Glasgow (1927-1934). Munro Kerr was also a prominent figure in the foundation of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: one of the signatories of the Articles of Association which established the College in 1929, he became the first Vice President in 1930, and was instrumental in attracting the attention of the newspaper proprietor, Lord Riddell, by whose generosity the first College House in Queen Anne Street was maintained.

Professor Munro Kerr was born in Glasgow, the son of a ship and insurance broker, and was educated at Glasgow Academy and Glasgow University, graduating in medicine in 1890. He held resident hospital posts in Scotland, and studied overseas in Berlin, Dublin and Vienna. On his return to Glasgow, he occupied a number of staff positions, including the Muirhead Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, until his appointment as Regius Professor at Glasgow University in 1927.

Fluent in many languages with a flair for teaching, Munro Kerr was described as 'often informal, sometimes a little dramatic, but always fascinating', and his many testimonies support the image of a dapper, courteous and charming man, famed for his smart dress, elegance and the sporting of a monocle! Glasgow in the inter-war years provided an eager and talented doctor with food for experience in the form of a large volume of abnormal obstetrics, and Munro Kerr gained enormous experience as an obstetrician. He used this background to publish his widely influential textbook Operative Obstetrics in 1908, followed by Maternal Mortality & Morbidity in 1933, which earned him the award of the Katharine Bishop Harman Prize by the British Medical Association in recognition of his contribution toward the prevention of the risks of child-birth. From the 1920s, Professor Munro Kerr championed the case for the lower segment caesarean section as opposed to the classical vertical incision. He showcased this at the American Gynaecological Society meeting in Massachusetts in 1926, and his name is still linked with the procedure in the US today. Recognition of the superiority of the procedure came at the 1949 British Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, at which event Munro Kerr is reported to have excitedly proclaimed from the podium: "Hallelujah! The battle's o'er; the victory's won".

Retiring to Canterbury, Kent in 1934, Professor Munro Kerr continued to write and keep his prominent place in the specialty: together with Professors Robert Johnstone and Miles Harris Phillips, he edited a Historical Review of British Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 1800-1950 (1954) which brought together the combined expertise of many of the Fellows of the College.


As received.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers by appointment, Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. mailto:

Other Finding Aids

Full record descriptions to item level are available from the College Archivist mailto:

A collection description of this material is also available on the AIM25 website although the information is now incomplete and in need of updating.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

A presentation box was made by the RACOG for the documents. They have been kept in this box with the exception of S12/14-18 and S12/22, rolls which have been flattened and are now stored elsewhere in the Archives. The roll cylinders have been kept in the presentation box, and S12/21 is still in its cylinder

Archivist's Note

Catalogued by Penny Bonning, Archivist, in August 2011

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is vested in the estate of Professor John Munro Kerr until 2030.

Reproductions are available at the discretion of the College Archivist.

Custodial History

This collection of papers appears to have been brought together by Professor Munro Kerr, and was discovered in Melbourne, Australia in 1988 by Dr Alexander Gillies. Dr Gillies' father, John Stewart Gillies, had been a student of Munro Kerr and was later his personal doctor. The papers were presented to the RCOG in July 1989 by the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in memory of Dr J S Gillies.

Related Material

The RCOG Archive holds other material relating to Professor Munro Kerr, including:

  • Photographs, Archive Reference RCOG/PH1/3/11, PH7/5, PH7/18/1, PH7/18/15 and PH15/3
  • Correspondence with contemporaries, such as William Blair-Bell (Archive Reference S14), Miles Harris Phillips (S97), William Fletcher Shaw (Archive Reference S34), and John Chassar Moir (S2).
  • Inscribed copy of the Historical Review, edited by Munro Kerr, R W Johnstone, and Miles Harris Phillips (Archive Reference S42).
  • Records relating to a scientific meeting in Glasgow of the Munro Kerr Society for the Study of Reproductive Medicine in 1984 (Archive Reference RCOG/E4/35