Dickson, Charles (1886–1978), physician and historian, was born at Dromore, Co. Down, on 20 January 1886, son of John Mitchel Dickson, a linen merchant whose mother, Matilda (d. 1897), was a sister of John Mitchel (qv). Later the family, who were non-subscribing presbyterians, moved to Holywood, Co. Down. Charles Dickson was educated at Dromore and at the RBAI, before entering the medical school of QCB (1903). There he developed an interest in the Irish language, which he learned in the Glenveagh district of Co. Donegal, and became a friend of William Porter MacArthur (qv), whom he helped to form the college Gaelic Society (1906), serving first as secretary, then as treasurer. He qualified MB with first-class honours (1908), was a house officer at the Belfast Royal Victoria Hospital (1909–10), and carried out research in the field of typhoid and water supply at Queen's, for which he was awarded an MD (1911). He then joined the civil service as a medical officer with the national health insurance commissioners (July 1912).
During the first world war Dickson was a captain in the RAMC (1915–19), winning an MC (1917) for gallantry in restoring a field dressing station under bombardment by gas shells and high explosives. After resuming his employment in Dublin he became a fellow of the RCPI (1922) and chief medical officer in the civil service (1923), the post he held until retirement at the age of sixty-eight (1954). He was registrar to the RCPI and secretary of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Ireland (both from 1954), and editor (1962–70) of the Irish Journal of Medical Science, to which he contributed leading articles revealing ‘his fine touch as a belle-lettrist, widely read and well informed’ (Ir. Jn. Med. Sc.).
Charles Dickson was known to the general public as the author of three histories, solidly based on primary sources, of the Irish rebellions of 1798: The life of Michael Dwyer (1944), The Wexford rising (1955), and Revolt in the north: Antrim and Down in 1798 (1960). In his later years he lived at Gayfield, Killiney, Co. Dublin. He died 1 January 1978 aged ninety-one. With his wife, Maeve, daughter of Pakenham Erskine, he had two daughters, Wendy and Barbara; Barbara became a journalist with the Irish Times.