Sir Kai Ho-Kai

21 March 1859 - 21 July 1914

MB MS (1879)
CMG (1902)
KBE (1912)

Sir Kai Ho-Kai was the first Chinese graduate of the University of Aberdeen. He went on to introduce Western medicine into Hong Kong which was, at that time, an important trading port in the South China Sea.  He organised the public health strategy for sanitation in that city and went on to help defeat the city’s curse of the bubonic plague.

Kai Ho-Kai was the 4th son to a Chinese minister of the Church of Scotland in Hong Kong. He studied school in the government Central Hospital in 1870 (the school was the forerunner of the present Queen’s College). At age 13 he was sent to England to the Palmer House School at Margate Kent and in 1875 he entered the University of Aberdeen to study medicine residing in King Street.  As was the way at that time, his clinical study was done at St Thomas’s Hospital in London. He went on to study for the membership of the Royal College of Surgeons passing the examination in 1879, thereafter studying law at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and called to the bar in 1881. Returning to  Hong Kong in 1882, he served as a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and a Justice of the Peace for many years.

Life was initially difficult for him; as a Chinese individual practising Western medicine, he was distrusted by the Chinese.  Similarly being Chinese, he received few Western referrals.  As above his roles on public health, the standing committee on Hong Kong, and the medical board, amongst others gave him an important role in that country. He was the first Chinese to receive both CMG and knighthood. He was also a Freemason. He was twice married and left 10 children on his death having had 17 by his second wife.

He collaborated closely with Dr Alexandre Yersin and make contributions to the understanding and research into many infectious diseases in that part of the globe. Along with Sir James Cantlie, and Sir Patrick Manson, Sir kai Ho-Kai helped establish the University of Hong Kong in 1910. Their work also established an improved nutritional basis for the children of Hong Kong, identifying rickets as a highly prevalent condition. He opened Hong Kong’s first maternity hospital, Alice Memorial Hospital (named after his wife, Alice Walkden), subsequently part of the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital. Alice was to die prematurely, probably from typhoid.

His major political contributions were to play an important role between the local community and Hong Kong and British colonial government.  He was also admired by his student Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Republic of China of whom he was a great supporter and who also came to Aberdeen as a student - a decision probably influenced by Ho-Kai.

Acquired the Kowloon Hills along with his son-in-law Au Tak - an area which was subsequently to become the Kai Tak international airport in Hong Kong (named after him)

Wikipedia biography:

The Life and Times of Sir Kai Ho Kai. G.H. Choa Chinese University Press 2000. ISBN 962-201-873-4

Biography prepared from the nomination made by Professor GG Youngson to the University of Aberdeen 525 Alumni project.