Keiller, Violet Hannah (1887–1958)

By: Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: April 11, 2017

Violet Keiller, pathologist and medical professor, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 27, 1887, to Eliza Henrietta (McLaughlin) and Dr. William Keiller. In 1891 the family moved to the United States. Her father became the first professor of anatomy and later dean at the Medical Branch of the University of Texas in Galveston (now the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). Violet lived with her family in Texas until leaving to attend Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, where she received a bachelor of arts degree in 1910. She then returned to Galveston, entered the medical school, and graduated in 1914.

Without taking time for an internship, she immediately became an assistant to Dr. James E. Thompson, professor of surgery in the Galveston medical school; she later followed him as an instructor in surgical pathology. In 1927 she moved to Houston to become a pathologist at Hermann Hospital, where she specialized in the diagnosis of cancer. She continued her teaching work during this time, returning to Galveston two days a week to teach classes at the medical school and later holding a professorship at Baylor University College of Medicine after its move to Houston in 1943. Violet Keiller eventually became chief pathologist at Hermann and worked there for thirty years. In 1953 she retired from her full-time medical work; she subsequently served as a consultant in pathology to Hermann Hospital and to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute at Houston (see UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SYSTEM CANCER CENTER) and became professor emeritus at Baylor. She continued as a consultant until very near the end of her life, when ill health limited her activities. During her retirement the Violet H. Keiller Award was established at Hermann Hospital by former interns and residents to honor an outstanding student each year.

Dr. Keiller's professional memberships included the Harris County Medical Society, Texas Medical Association, American Medical Association, and American Society of Clinical Pathologists. She was also a member of Trinity Episcopal Church, Houston. She died of a heart attack at her Houston home on September 24, 1958, and was buried in Forest Park Cemetery, Houston. She was survived by two sisters and one brother, all of Houston.

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Houston Post, September 25, 1958. Texas State Journal of Medicine, November 1958.

  • Education
  • Educators
  • Medical
  • Health and Medicine
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • School Founders
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Pathologists
  • Peoples
  • Scots
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Keiller, Violet Hannah,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 27, 2022,

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February 1, 1995
April 11, 2017

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