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Priscilla Kincaid-Smith

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Priscilla Kincaid-Smith (1926–2015) was a towering figure in Australian and international medicine

Priscilla Sheath Kincaid-Smith was born and raised in South Africa. At school, she was more interested in sport than study and proved to be an outstanding athlete. She was national 100 yards freestyle swimming champion and toured Europe with the South African women’s national hockey team. Only World War II prevented her from being an Olympian. At the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Priscilla discovered a lifelong love of medicine and medical science. Being a brilliant student and athlete, she tried for a Rhodes Scholarship, only to be told that as a woman she was not eligible.

In 1953, she followed the path of many ambitious young medical graduates from the dominions and moved to London, where she worked at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith Hospital with Sir John McMichael, whom she later described as her most influential teacher. It was here, while studying the renal lesions of malignant hypertension, that she developed her lifelong fascination with the kidney and its pathology. She spent long hours in the postmortem room, and it was in this rather unlikely setting for romance that she met a young Australian doctor, Ken Fairley. After a brief courtship, they married and set off for Australia.

The sunburnt country was something of a shock to Priscilla. She loved the…

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