Dundee, John Wharry (1921–91), anaesthetist, was born 8 November 1921 at Ballynure, Larne, Co. Antrim, the son of William Wharry Dundee, farmer, and Tillie Dundee (née McRoberts). Educated locally at Ballyclare High School, he later entered Queen's University, Belfast (1939), where he studied medicine, graduating MB, B.Ch., BAO (1946). He became interested in anaesthesia during his first appointment, as resident anaesthetist at the City and County Hospital, Derry. In 1948 he moved to Liverpool, at that time an innovative centre for research in anaesthetic pharmacology, on his appointment as lecturer in anaesthetics at the University of Liverpool.
At the same time Dundee undertook academic research, spending a year on sabbatical at the University of Pennsylvania, then returned to Liverpool both to the university and as consultant anaesthetist at Walton Hospital and the United Liverpool Hospital. Remembered chiefly for his research work on intravenous anaesthetics, particularly thiopentone, he pioneered clinical investigations of new induction agents on large numbers of patients, producing objective reports on their efficacy. With his research assistants, he published between 500 and 600 research papers over thirty years. This impressive output was as a result of his insistence that, after a morning of clinical work, his team would sit down and write up their findings, completing a draft paper before they left that evening. During this time, while conducting general research, Dundee obtained an MD from QUB (1951) for a thesis entitled ‘Sensitivity to and detoxification of thiopentone’. Subsequently, he obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Liverpool (1957) for further research on thiopentone and other thiobarbiturates.
Dundee returned to Belfast in 1958, when he was appointed lecturer in anaesthetics at QUB. There he set about building up the department, initiating new postgraduate training and teaching courses and a vigorous research programme, supervising fifty postgraduate degrees himself. He introduced regular clinical meetings to keep all anaesthetists up to date on new techniques and implemented continuing education options for fellows of the Faculty of Anaesthetists in the Royal College of Surgeons (FARCS). Appointed the first professor of anaesthetics at QUB (1964), he was an active participant in many professional bodies, and he had an international profile in anaesthetic pharmacology. He was awarded an OBE in 1984 and retired four years later, when he was made emeritus professor of anaesthetics, QUB. He continued his involvement in anaesthesia until the time of his death. A visit to China prompted an interest in acupuncture, a topic he continued to study after his retirement.
Dundee was an active member of many academic and professional bodies involved in the study and regulation of anaesthetics and was made a fellow of the FARCS (1953). Involved in the Irish Faculty of Anaesthetists, he was at various times a member of board and an examiner, and finally served as dean (1969–73). He was on the council of the Association of Anaesthetists, a member of the board of the Faculty of Anaesthetists, RCSI, of which he was later made a fellow (1959), and president of the anaesthetics section of the Royal Society of Medicine (1979–80). He was also from 1975 a member of the RCPI, of which he was made a fellow in 1984. As well as his numerous research papers, he was the author of several books, including Intravenous anaesthesia (1974, 1988), Intravenous anaesthetic agents (1979), and, as joint author, Clinical anaesthetic pharmacology (1991).
Coming from a large family, Dundee was devoted to his own and deeply attached to his roots in Antrim. Music and religion played a large part in his life; he occasionally played the organ at his local church and he spent much of his spare time doing administrative work for his presbyterian parish. In his early days he had been an accompanist to the Ballyclare male voice choir, and during the Second World War had toured once with Ivy Benson's Girls Band. In later years he became involved in the Christian Medical Fellowship (president, 1985–7). He married Sarah (Sally) Irwin Houston, and they had four children – one son, who later died in Glasgow where he was attending college, and three daughters. His short retirement was plagued by ill health, and both he and his wife suffered periods of serious illness. He died 1 December 1991 of a heart attack, three weeks after his wife's death.