Kennedy, Evory (1806–86), obstetrician, was born 28 November 1806 at Carndonagh, Co. Donegal, ninth of ten sons and thirteenth of fourteen children of Rev. John Pitt Kennedy, rector of Donagh, and Mary Kennedy (née Cary). He was educated at Foyle College, Derry, and studied medicine at TCD and RCSI before graduating MD (1827) from Edinburgh University with his thesis ‘De febre puerperam’. He visited hospitals in London and Paris, settled in Dublin in 1828, was admitted licentiate of the (R)K&QCP(I) and developed a large practice, chiefly as an obstetrician.
Appointed assistant master (1828–31) under Dr Robert Collins (1800–68) at the Rotunda Lying-in Hospital, Dublin, he readily appreciated the value of the stethoscope in observing the foetal heart, and published Observations on obstetric auscultation, with an analysis of the evidences of pregnancy, and an enquiry into the proofs of life and death of the foetus in utero (1834); an original and comprehensive work that had a major influence on English and Scottish obstetrical practice, it made Kennedy a leading figure in European obstetrics. In 1838 he founded and was first president (elected again, 1849, 1872) of the Dublin Obstetrical Society; at first consisting exclusively of students, it quickly attracted medical practitioners and its proceedings were published in the Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science. In 1882 it merged with other societies to become the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland.
Elected master (1833–40) of the Rotunda Hospital, he opened the first gynaecological ward (1835) for the treatment and study of the diseases of women and children. During his period of office the Rotunda was competing with private medical schools for students. Kennedy's plea to the council of the RCSI to prohibit the Coombe Hospital authorities from issuing certificates to their students (arguing that the Rotunda was the only chartered lying-in hospital) was rejected, as was his petition to parliament to have a clause inserted in the medical charities bill, affirming that the granting of a diploma should be confined to the Rotunda. He issued a manifesto in the daily papers emphasising the advantages of studentship in the Rotunda, and his intention to grant diplomas of proficiency in midwifery and publish lists of qualified students; however, in 1836 the (R)K&QCP(I) decreed that he had exceeded his responsibilities, and that only certificates of the students' satisfactory discharge of their duties were permitted.
During his mastership the Rotunda experienced the highest maternal mortality rate in its history. In 1867, to combat the scourge of puerperal fever and high maternal mortality rates, Kennedy sent a letter to his fellow governors (Dublin Q. Jn. Med. Sc., xliv (Aug.–Nov. 1867), 514–21) proposing a radical restructuring of the hospital: he advocated building thirty chalets, each housing two maternity patients and one nurse, thus providing conditions of private practice, the appropriation of additional wards for gynaecology and the treatment of children, and the extension of extern maternity practice. The governors rejected his proposals. Undaunted, he presented his important paper ‘Zymotic diseases, as more especially illustrated by puerperal diseases’ (Dublin Q. Jn. Med. Sc., xlvii (Feb. and May. 1869), 269–307) to the Dublin Obstetrical Society. His thesis was that puerperal fever was a contagious and preventable disease, transmitted to one patient by another or by a nurse or doctor; he demonstrated statistically that the maternal death rate in large hospitals was everywhere higher than in smaller hospitals or among women delivered in their own homes, and calculated that deaths could be reduced to one-ninth of their present number if what he had proposed to the governors were to be adopted. The paper provoked discussion for eleven nights by seventeen physicians (Dublin Q. Jn. Med. Sc., xlviii (Aug.–Nov. 1869), 225–429), but his explanation and remedies were considered unsatisfactory. Finally, in 1870 he suggested to the governors that isolation wards should be built, a system that was not instituted until 1903.
He contributed papers to medical journals, and in 1839 was awarded an hon. MD from TCD. He was elected fellow (1839) and president (1853) of the (R)K&QCP(I). Other offices included the directorship of the Vaccine Institution; consulting physician to the Dublin Eye and Ear Hospital, 23 Ely Place; president (1871) and chairman of the council (1872) of the Irish Medical Association; vice-president of the Société d'Afrique, Paris; corresponding member of the Medical Society of Hamburg; hon. member of the Hunterian Medical Society, Edinburgh; and hon. fellow of the Edinburgh Obstetrical Society.
In retirement he lived at Belgard Castle, Clondalkin, Co. Dublin, and became a JP and DL of Co. Dublin. He sought unsuccessfully in 1874 to represent Donegal county in parliament – his candidature stimulating various comments in verse. A literary man, he entertained Thomas Carlyle during his visit to Ireland in 1849 and contributed an article, ‘On the principles and uses of alliteration in poetry’, to The afternoon lectures of literature and art (Dublin, 1866). He moved to London and died 23 April 1886 at his home, 20 Queensberry Place, and was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery, Dublin. A portrait by his nephew Charles Napier Kennedy (1852–92) hangs in the Rotunda Hospital. His brothers included John Pitt Kennedy (qv), military secretary to Sir Charles Napier in India, and Tristram Edward Kennedy (qv), MP for Co. Louth. He married (1835) Alicia Hamilton (d. 1867); they had seven daughters and three sons. His granddaughter Dorothy Stopford Price (qv) was a pioneer in vaccination against tuberculosis.