Sir Robert Philip

1857 - 1939

Medical scientist who pioneered the management of tuberculosis. Born in Govan, a son of the manse, Philip's father took a charge in Edinburgh in 1866. Philip was educated at the Royal High School in that city and graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1882 with a degree in medicine.

His first position was in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, but he went abroad to further his studies at Leipzig and Vienna, where he first came across the tubercle bacillus, which had been discovered by German bacteriologist Robert Koch just months previously. Returning to Edinburgh, he was horrified at the treatment of patients with tuberculosis, also known as consumption, which was widespread and regarded as impossible to manage. In 1887, he founded the world's first Dispensary for Consumption and this proved so successful that Philip had to find larger premises in 1891 and again in 1913. He opened the Victoria Hospital for Consumption in the former Craigleith House, which later gained Royal patronage. In 1909, he founded a 'farm colony' at Polton which permitted the isolation and monitoring of apparently healthy patients who could still infect others. Philip also instituted what became known worldwide as the Edinburgh Scheme, which involved the tracing of all known contacts of a patient diagnosed with the disease.

A Chair of Tuberculosis was established at the University of Edinburgh, the first of its type, and Philip was invited to occupy it. He went on to establish Southfield Sanatorium in Liberton (1922), which later became Southfield Hospital. He then turned his efforts to the production of tuberculosis-free milk and leased a farm at Gracemount in 1921 to demonstrate its production.

His work was widely recognised and applied internationally and he was knighted in 1913. Philip died in Edinburgh and is remembered by an inscription in Charlotte Square and by a plaque in Bank Street, where he established his clinic.

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