Bryan Donkin was born at Blackheath, the first son of Bryan Donkin, civil engineer, of Charlton, Kent. He was educated at Blackheath Proprietary School and The Queen’s College, Oxford, and graduated with a first class in "Greats" in 1867. His first intention was to read for the Bar, but he changed his mind in favour of medicine, which he studied at St. Thomas’s Hospital, duly proceeding to his B.M. degree in 1873. Having served in junior posts at St. Thomas’s and the City of London Hospital for Diseases of the Chest, he was elected assistant physician to the Westminster Hospital in 1874 and in time became physician, dean and lecturer on clinical medicine and medicine. He was also physician to the East London Hospital for Children, and wrote a treatise on Diseases of Children in 1893. He lectured on medicine at the London School of Medicine for Women.
Donkin resigned his hospital appointments in 1898 when he was made a commissioner of prisons. He was an active member of the Royal Commission of 1904-08 on the care and control of the feeble-minded, and after retiring from his commissionership in 1910 became medical adviser to the Prison Commission and a director of convict prisons. He delivered the Harveian Oration before the Royal College of Physicians in 1910 and was knighted in 1911. As a criminologist Donkin was well-informed on mental disease and psychology. He also held strong views on the control of venereal disease. He was a sociable man and prominent at the Savile Club. His first wife was Augusta, daughter of Count di Langhi, a Pole, and widow of Prof. Edward Palmer, the oriental scholar. His second wife was Marie, daughter of William Reston of North Carolina and widow of W. I. Bates of Belfast. He died in London.
G H Brown
[Lancet, 1927; B.M.J., 1927; Al.Oxon., I, 378]