The Annual Graves Lecture commemorates Robert Graves, the eminent Dublin physician. The lecture should serve to foster and promote research in Ireland. The lecturer is selected by the General Council from nominations sought from Fellows of the Academy. It was at a meeting of the General Council held on Friday, 29th January 1960 that the decision to run the “Graves Lecture of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland” was decided. The first lecture started in 1961. The names of the lecturers should be exhibited on a notice board in the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, 6, Kildare Street, Dublin 2
The subject of the lecture must be of clinical/biomedical interest embodying original research. The lecturer receives the Academy’s silver medal and an honorarium, determined by the General Council.
Graves taught clinical medicine. His particular interest was in teaching his students the responsibility of diagnosis and treatment of ward patients. He said: “From the very commencement the student should set out to witness the progress and effects of sickness and ought to persevere in the daily observation of disease during the whole period of his studies”. Graves encouraged his students to learn the cost of prescriptions so that when they entered practice they could consider a patient’s financial situation when they prescribed the appropriate medicines. Graves was very aware of the impoverished conditions of his patients. He wrote once “Damp straw was used for filling the bed of one of my patients which might have caused him much harm as he was suffering from rheumatism”. Hospitals were not comfortable places in those years. He insisted the only way to learn medicine was at the bedside.
He introduced in his lectures the timing of the pulse by watch and the practicing of giving food and liquids to patients with fever instead of withholding nourishment. Graves said “when I am gone, you may be at a loss for an epitaph for me, let me give you one, in three words: “He Fed Fevers.”
With William Stokes he edited the Dublin Journal of Medical and Chemical Science from 1832 to 1842, a journal he had founded with Sir Robert Kane. His first paper was an account of the outbreak of Typhus fever in Galway.
RJ Graves was appointed President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in 1843. and he was one of the first physicians to fully describe exophthalmic goitre, now called “Graves Disease”.
He died in Dublin in 1853 of an abdominal tumour aged 57 years. William Stokes wrote “He was once my teacher, later my colleague, always my friend”.
A statue of Graves was erected in Dublin in 1878. It stands in the Royal College of Physicians, 6, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Graves statue stands in good company in the Graves Hall of Kildare Street. With three other eminent physicians – William Stokes, Sir Dominic Corrigan, Sir Henry Marsh and Robert Graves. All four statues were commissioned from the Irish sculptor John Foley. Foley died before completing the statue of Graves, his pupil Albert Bruce-Joy completed the commission.
Robert Graves is buried in the Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin and he left his library to Trinity College Dublin. He was a brilliant linguist and well travelled gentleman who has with his teaching methods of students for the care of the patient given so much to scientific and medical knowledge.