James Macalister Mackintosh Scotland

Biography of James Macalister Mackintosh

James Mackintosh
James Mackintosh

James Macalister Mackintosh was a graduate of the University and Henry Mechan Professor of Public Health, 1940 to 1944. He was awarded an LLD in 1950.

James, the younger son of James Dunbar Mackintosh and his wife, Janet Macalister, was born in Kilmarnock on 17th February 1891. He was educated at the High School of Glasgow and went on to the University of Glasgow in 1909 to begin studying for an Arts degree.

At that time the family home was at 48 Dundonald Road, Kilmarnock, though later they moved to Barassie, Troon. Studying seemed to come easily and James was able to combine his classes with a broad extracurricular life. His generation at University produced a galaxy of characters who enjoyed the political, literary and social scope that Gilmorehill offered. Sir William Robieson and Osborne Mavor were among his friends.

Like Robieson, he was active in the Liberal Club and went on to become its secretary as well as an able Union debater. In 1913 he became President of the chess club and still seemed to find time to be something of a ladies man, if the Glasgow University Magazines characterisation of him that year had any truth in its anonymous writer's view that, The very shadow of a skirt / Wee Jimmy's there! Gosh! He's a flirt!

In his first two years he took classes in Latin, Greek and Logic, but, like many such young men, it was as a prelude to Medicine. In his final year of his MA he studied Chemistry and Zoology and, after graduating MA in 1912, continued with his medical curriculum. It was in Medicine that his academic potential really began to show and by the time the Great War began, he had achieved first class certificates in Anatomy and Medical Jurisprudence and a second class in Pathology. He was a member of the University OTC and at the outbreak of war he was quick to volunteer.

Commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 6th Cameron Highlanders he was posted to the Western Front, where he saw active service and suffered serious wounds at the Battle of Loos. By that stage in the war it had become clear that a medical graduate was of more use to the army than a medical student, however gallant. Those who were close enough to completing their studies were encouraged to do so. James Mackintosh returned to his studies in the autumn of 1915 and applied himself with a will, featuring again in the prize-list, this time for Clinical Surgery and Gynaecology. On 9th October 1916 he graduated close to the top of his year with a commendation. His war, however, was not over. He was commissioned Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps and returned to France in 1918.

James Macalister Mackintosh returned from the war to marry Marjorie Strathie in 1919 and set out on the path to a very eminent career in public health. There were more academic successes. He took a DPH in 1920, an MD with high commendation in 1923, and in 1930 he qualified as a barrister at Gray's Inn. In the inter-war years, when he moved from post to post in public health south of the border, he built up a reputation as an administrator and a leading expert in rural housing.

Returning to Scotland, he was appointed Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health in 1937, where he was diverted from his task of implementing reform in order to organise the emergency medical services in preparation for war. Four years later he returned to the University of Glasgow as the Professor of the Henry Mechan Chair of Public Health, but did not stay long. During the war his skills were in great demand both here and in the United States.

In 1944 he became Professor of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. From that base his interests and reputation expanded to an international stage and he made important contributions to the teaching and practice of public health in Europe and in the World Health Organisation. Glasgow University honoured him with an LLD in 1950. It was said of him that day his wartime life was crowded with so many emergencies, special commitments and journeys abroad that the Professor entered upon a life whose restlessness would have startled Ulysses. He died in Bristol on 20th April 1966.


James Macalister Mackintosh
Lawyer and Physician

Born 17 February 1891, Kilmarnock, Scotland.
Died 20 April 1966.
GU Degrees: LLD, 1950; MA, 1912; MB ChB, 1916; MD, 1923;
University Link: Alumnus, Professor
Occupation categories: lawyers; physicians
Search for this person in the DNB
Record last updated: 17th Dec 2020

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Scotland Scotland
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  • Alumnus
  • Professor

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