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Keiller, William (1861–1931)

Chester R. Burns Biography Entry

William Keiller, professor of anatomy and dean of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, was born in Auchindinny, a village in Edinburghshire, Scotland, on July 4, 1861, the son of Mathewson and Hannah (Napier) Keiller. After schooling at the Montrose Academy, the Perth Academy, and the University of Edinburgh, he studied medicine with members of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Edinburgh and the faculty of Physicians and Surgeons College of Glasgow. After winning prizes for his performance as an anatomy student, Keiller received medical degrees from these two institutions in 1888. He subsequently served as an attending physician at the Edinburgh Dispensary, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, and as a lecturer in anatomy at the University of Edinburgh School of Medicine. He was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh.

In 1891 he became a professor at UTMB where he taught anatomy for forty years, specializing in neuroanatomy. An extraordinary lecturer and a talented artist, Keiller astounded students with exquisite chalkboard illustrations. He introduced the formalin method of preserving bodies used for dissection, pioneered in the use of local anesthetics, and wrote a valuable monograph, Nerve Tracts of the Brain and Cord (1927). He was also a joint author of Textbook on Anatomy (1899). Keiller served as UTMB's dean from 1922 to 1926. A laboratory building on the UTMB campus is named in his honor. He was president of the Texas State Medical Association (1926) and the Texas Neurological Society (1931). He was also a member of the Galveston County Medical Society, the American Medical Association, and the International Association of Medical Museums. The Texas Surgical Society elected Keiller its first honorary fellow in 1916.

On March 6, 1883, he married Eliza A. McLaughlin. They had four children. After her death he married Jane Julia McLaughlin, on June 27, 1895; they had two children. Violet Keiller, one of the daughters, graduated from UTMB in 1914. Keiller died in Galveston on February 22, 1931.

Galveston Daily News, February 23, 24, 1931. Texas State Journal of Medicine, May 1931. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston: A Seventy-five Year History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967). Who Was Who in America, Vol. 1.


  • Health and Medicine
  • Education
  • Educators
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • School Founders
  • Peoples
  • Scots

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

Chester R. Burns, “Keiller, William,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 21, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.