from a Penicuik Community Development Trust exhibition held in Penicuik Town Hall on 2 February 2008


Jonathan Martin Whitfield, MB ChB, FRCP(C)

Department of Pediatrics (Whitfield) and the Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute (Roberts),

Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, Texas

One of America’s leading pediatricians and a specialist in neonatal care

Jonathan Whitfield was born in 1946.  His childhood was spent in Penicuik and Edinburgh where he attended the Rudolf Steiner school.  He entered the University of Glasgow in 1964, graduating in medicine cum laude in 1970.  After 6 months of internal medicine and 6 months of general surgery, he went to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto for a year of general pediatrics. He returned to Glasgow as senior house officer in pediatric surgery in 1971. He then went to Auckland, New Zealand, and the National Women's Hospital as a registrar in neonatology for 6 months. Before a return to Canada, he spent 8 months in general medical practice in Papua New Guinea on Bougainville Island.  He completed his pediatric residency at Children's Hospital of East Ontario in Ottawa, Canada from 1974 to 1976 then went to Denver USA to the University of Colorado & The Children's Hospital as a fellow in neonatology & perinatology until 1977. He did another year of neonatology in Toronto at the Hospital for Sick Children and then returned to Denver in 1978, where he joined the faculty of the University of Colorado. He spent a sabbatical year 1987–1988 at the Children's Hospital National Medical Center in Washington, DC.  In 1991, he moved with his family to Dallas, Texas, where he became medical director of neonatal and pediatric critical care services at Baylor University Medical Center and, 4 years later, chief of pediatrics.  Here, at BUMC in Dallas, Dr. Whitfield created one of the finest neonatology departments anywhere in the world and received national prominence in the USA through his lecturing and publications in peer-reviewed medical journals.

JMW: …Penicuik House Garden Cottage was one of the most primitive places to live, but amazingly I have the fondest memories of it.  It was a rundown cottage attached to a huge walled garden on the old Scottish estate of Sir John Clerk outside Edinburgh.  My dad took care of the garden and managed to support us as a family while he went to college.  The walled garden was like the “Secret Garden” (Frances Burnett story) for us.  It had 20-foot-high walls enclosing 2 acres.  It contained a feast of fruits and vegetables that had been planted over the years.  The cottage that went with it was somewhat primitive.  I would wake up in the mornings and the walls would have moisture on them from the condensation and dampness of the Scottish climate.  Nevertheless, it was the greatest place to be because we were in the country.  We had goats and hens and had the greatest times.  We children were not aware of the fairly primitive conditions in which we were living. We enjoyed it immensely.  I remember overlooking the property from a 70-foot fir tree that I climbed.  I would sit at the top of it swaying in the wind, overlooking this huge garden.  My mother would always be very alarmed to see me atop this giant fir!  I'd dream about my future.  I still have very fond memories of doing that.

What was the cottage like?  Did all the kids stay in the same room?

JMW: The cottage consisted of a row of single rooms that were attached to huge greenhouses.  After coming in the front door, if you turned right you went through the kitchen and my parents' bedroom to get to the children's bedrooms; if you went left, you had to go through a living room to the bedrooms.  We had an inside toilet, running water, and a wood Rayburn stove with a bath behind a curtain.  We took baths once a week.  We had our first telephone, one with the separate earpiece.  I still remember the number—Penicuik 119.  My mother used to love to talk to her friends. It was a shared line.  One great entertainment for the kids was to pick up the earpiece and listen to the neighbors' conversations.


recording a Penicuik Community Development Trust exhibition of living Penicuik Greats in Penicuik Town Hall on 2 February 2008

JMW conversation text & image extract from a much larger article in the Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings

Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2004 April; 17(2): 193–208.