YATES, HORATIO, physician, educator, and administrator; b. 11 Feb. 1821 in Otsego County, N.Y., elder son of Hannah Palmer and Dr William Yates; m. 8 Sept. 1846 at Kingston, Canada West, Jane Bower, and they had three daughters; d. 11 March 1882 at Kingston.
At age 12 Horatio Yates was sent from his parents’ farm in Otsego County to live with his uncle Noble Palmer, a chemist in Kingston. In 1838 he was articled to Dr James Sampson* of Kingston as a medical student, then attended the University of Pennsylvania where he was granted an md in 1842. He passed the examination of the Medical Board in Canada West in July 1842 and spent the next year in England at St George’s Hospital, London. In 1843 he returned and settled in Kingston.
When the Female Benevolent Society [see Harriet Dobbs] opened its charity hospital in 1845 in the building vacated by the parliament of the Province of Canada, Yates offered his services. His association with the hospital (later the Kingston General Hospital), which provided patient care and trained medical students, became his main interest. In the succeeding years the hospital suffered from financial and management problems, and late in 1853 Yates decided to seek election as alderman so he could serve on the hospital board and attempt to effect badly needed improvements in both facilities and management. Yates and a colleague, Dr John Robinson Dickson, were elected as aldermen and joined the board in 1854.
In January of that year Yates was elected chairman of the board of health. He instituted a comprehensive programme which minimized the severity of the cholera epidemic that summer and he published articles to inform the public about primary preventive measures. He advised a general clean-up, improved drainage, and proper personal care, and recommended that people sleep on second or third floors “to avoid noxious gases.”
Yates’s main preoccupation remained the hospital and he assumed control of its improvement and reorganization. After reviewing the situation in 1854 he persuaded the non-medical members of the hospital board not to close the institution because of the heavy debt; he agreed to take personal responsibility for its operation. By hiring a new steward, a matron, and two orderlies as well as by inviting local doctors to assist at the hospital and control the admitting and discharging of patients, Yates helped improve both patient care and medical training. Essential repairs were made to the building and he managed a reduction in the debt by coupling rigid economy with successful appeals for larger grants. In 1856 an amendment to the act of incorporation created a close association between Queen’s College and the hospital, and placed control of the hospital with a separate, more responsible board. Yates continued on the new board and was elected its chairman in 1866.
Yates had also been a founder of the medical faculty of Queen’s College in 1854 and was its professor of the principles and practice of medicine. He arranged for senior medical students, under the supervision of their teachers, to take over the duties of the house surgeon at the hospital, thus saving the hospital £100 a year. Yates attempted to mediate a conflict which arose in 1864 in the medical faculty between several doctors, led by Dickson, and the trustees of the college. Following Dickson’s resignation as dean of the facultates held the post for two years. He refused to join the dissident members of the faculty who resigned and set up the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Kingston in 1866, with Dickson as president. Instead he devoted himself to the hospital where he continued to lecture in clinical medicine. In July 1870, however, he did accept an appointment to the staff of the college.
Because of the change of governments at confederation the province made no grants to hospitals in 1867. Kingston General Hospital managed to stay open on credit extended by the Commercial Bank of the Midland District but the hospital was threatened with closure when the bank suspended payment on 22 October. Yates’s vigorous and effective search for funds kept the hospital open. He negotiated a 15-year grant from the federal government for the hospital as one serving “the mariners on the Lakes.” He also secured increased grants from the province and campaigned annually for small grants from Frontenac County and nearby villages.
Yates’s interests were not confined to medicine. He became chairman of the parks committee for Kingston in 1855 and chairman of the Kingston Horticultural Society in 1857. During his tenures the two groups cooperated in landscaping the city park. He was also a member of the small group that purchased a telescope and established an observatory in the park in 1856. Yates was appointed surgeon to “A” battery of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in 1873 and surgeon to the new Royal Military College of Canada in 1876. In 1880 illness forced him to give up teaching and most of his private practice. He did, however, continue as chairman of the hospital board until his death in 1882.
Kingston General Hospital Arch. (Kingston, Ont.), Papers and records, 1854–82. QUA, Corporation of City of Kingston, City records, 181; Queen’s Univ. medical faculty records, X, box 8, vol.1; Xl, box 11, vol.1. Chronicle and News, 9 Jan. 1857. Daily British Whig, 11 March 1882. Daily News (Kingston), 2–26 Jan. 1854. Canadian biog. dict., I. Margaret Angus, Kingston General Hospital, 1832–1972: a social and institutional history (Montreal and London, Ont., 1973). M. I. Campbell, 100 years: Orphans Home and Widows Friend Society, 1857–1957 ([Kingston, 1957?]).