Sir James McGrigor

1771 - 1851

Military surgeon, credited with laying the foundations of the Royal Army Medical Corps. The son of a clothing merchant, McGrigor was born at Cromdale (Highland). He was educated at the Grammar School and University in Aberdeen, followed by a medical training at the University of Edinburgh. He joined the army as a surgeon in 1793, serving with the 88th Regiment of Foot (the Connaught Rangers) in Flanders (1794), the West Indies and India (1799). By 1801 he was Superintendent Surgeon in Egypt, where he set up an isolation hospital to deal with an outbreak of plague and personally suffered from malaria. In 1811, he was appointed Surgeon-General for the Duke of Wellington's army in Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular Wars (1808-14). McGrigor returned to Britain before the Battle of Waterloo, was knighted (1814) and went on to serve as Director-General of the Army Medical Service (1815-51) and did much to reform that department. An effective medical administrator, he revolutionised medical care on the battlefield, ensuring the wounded were treated in field hospitals, recovered and were returned to active service. In addition, McGrigor greatly improved the standards of cleanliness and sanitation both in the field and in the barracks bringing a dramatic reduction in diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhus. He also introduced the stethoscope to military practice in 1821 and created an ambulance corps to transport injured and sick personnel to his field hospitals and back to Britain.

He served as Rector of the University of Aberdeen on three occasions.

The McGrigor Barracks and Officers Mess at Aldershot were named in his honour. His statue is located at the entrance to the Headquarters of the Army Medical Service in Sandhurst. In Scotland, McGrigor is remembered by a 21-m (70-foot) monument in Duthie Park in Aberdeen. His portrait, by Sir David Wilkie (1785 - 1841), hangs in the headquarters of the Royal Army Medical Corps in London.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry arrow

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better