Cox, Michael Francis (1852–1926), physician, was born 20 September 1852 in Kilmore, Drumsna, Co. Roscommon, younger of at least two sons of Hugh Cox, farmer, and Anne Cox (née Kelly). Educated at St Mel's College, Longford, he subsequently graduated Bachelor of Arts (BA) (1875) from the Catholic University School of Medicine, Dublin, and undertook postgraduate medical training at London University. Admitted licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI, 1875), and licentiate of the (Royal) King and Queen's College of Physicians Ireland ((R)K&QCPI, forerunner of RCPI) (1877), he was subsequently elected member (1882) and fellow (1892).
Appointed house surgeon (1877–8) at St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, he then engaged in private practice in Sligo before returning to St Vincent's as physician (1881–1925). His appointment caused controversy because of his youth and inexperience, but he became one of the most eminent physicians of his time. Tall and dignified, he walked the wards in his frock coat and silk hat, and earned the respect of his colleagues and the appreciation of his patients, especially the poor, for whom he had the greatest sympathy. He secured a large private practice and was consulting physician to several Dublin hospitals, including the National Maternity Hospital, the Children's Hospital, Our Lady's Hospice, and the National Hospital for Consumption. In 1907 he chaired a Gaelic League committee established to organise a health education programme on tuberculosis in Connemara. In acknowledgement of his services to Lady Aberdeen (qv) in her crusade against tuberculosis, he was appointed privy councillor (1911) – the first doctor to be so honoured – but resigned in 1920 in protest against British policy in Ireland. Other professional distinctions and appointments included election as fellow of Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland (1883), president (1922–4) of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI, where his colleagues presented him with a replica of the Ardagh chalice), and governor of the Catholic University Medical School and of the Royal Veterinary College of Ireland.
Active from his student days in the university Literary and Historical Society, and winner of medals in composition (1869) and oratory (1871–2), he served as the society's secretary (1870) and was elected auditor (1872–3). He contributed to the high reputation enjoyed by the medical school, and was appointed examiner in medical jurisprudence and materia medica, elected senator (1895), and awarded an honorary Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree (Royal University of Ireland) (1895). He later became senator and first chairman of convocation of the National University of Ireland (NUI, 1910–25), and was appointed a member of the governing body of University College Dublin (UCD), having refused the offer of its first presidency in 1908. On the occasion of King George V's visit to Dublin (1911), Cox read the welcoming address on behalf of the NUI, and in 1915 an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) was conferred on him.
A lifelong nationalist on friendly terms with nationalist leaders, he supported John Redmond (qv), whose fatal intestinal tumour he diagnosed; Charles Stewart Parnell (qv), who once spoke from the balcony of his house in Sligo; John Dillon (qv); and Michael Davitt (qv), whom he attended at the time of his death (1906). As a student he had been a prizewinner in Irish, and remained a supporter of the Irish language; learned in Irish folklore and a keen book collector, he bought the celebrated manuscript ‘Book of genealogies’ (1650) by Dubhaltach Mac Firbhisigh (qv) in England, with the object of acquiring it as a national possession, and bequeathed it to the library of UCD.
Interested in all aspects of Irish life, he lectured on archaeological, historical, and literary subjects, and among other works published ‘The country and kindred of Oliver Goldsmith’ (Journal of the National Literary Society of Ireland, i, pt 2 (1900), 81–111). He was elected member of the Royal Irish Academy (MRIA, 1876); fellow (1910) and vice-president (1912–15, 1922–4) of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (RSAI); and vice-president of the Social and Statistical Society of Ireland (1919–25). He raced horses, was an expert on horse-breeding, and was commissioned by Lord Dunraven (qv) as chairman of the Irish commission on horse breeding to write Notes on the history of the Irish horse (1897); he also enjoyed golf.
He contracted a serious illness in 1923 and died 20 February 1926 at his home, 26 Merrion Square, Dublin. He married (1886) Elizabeth Nolan; they had two sons, Vincent Aedan Cox (1887–1920), who served with the Royal Garrison Artillery in the first world war, and Arthur C. Cox (qv), a distinguished solicitor. His brother Joseph Richard Cox (qv) was MP for Clare North.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).