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Ref No Level Title Date
AMCS Fonds Records of the Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society 18th - 21st century
AMCS/4 Series Deposited Papers 1776 - 2007

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Collection GB 0817 Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society
Level Sub-series
Ref No AMCS/4/1
Title Papers of Sir James McGrigor, Director-General of the Army Medical Department
Date 1796 - 1847
Extent 62 volumes, 1 file and 1 item
Administrative History Sir James McGrigor (1771-1858) was born in Cromdale, near Inverness, and attended the Grammar School and Marischal College in Aberdeen, graduating MA in 1788 (he was awarded an MD in 1804). He studied medicine at Aberdeen and Edinburgh and was apprenticed to George French (1765-1833), physician to the Infirmary in Aberdeen. On the 14 December 1789 he and eleven other students founded the Aberdeen Medical Society (later the Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society) to compensate for the lack of medical teaching offered by both King's and Marischal Colleges.

He then spent some time studying in London before purchasing the post of surgeon in the 88th or Connaught Rangers in September 1793. During the first part of his army career, he served in Flanders and the West Indies and was stationed at St. Owen's Bay in Jersey from May 1797 until late 1798. He subsequently served in Bombay, Ceylon and Egypt where he was appointed superintendent of the medical department of the Indian army sent to support the British force besieging the French army at Cairo, and subsequently had to deal with an outbreak of the plague among the troops.

After transferring to the Royal Horse Guards (Blues) he was appointed to the post of deputy inspector-general of hospitals for the northern district in June 1805, afterwards taking charge of the south-west district in June 1806. The area under his command was enormous and included Portsmouth where troops returning from postings overseas were disembarked. He also took part in the Walcheren expedition before his appointment as inspector-general of hospitals in August 1809. He married Mary (1779-1872), youngest daughter of Duncan Grant of Lingeistone, Moray, in June 1810 with whom he had three sons and one daughter. In 1811, he was appointed chief of the medical staff of the Peninsular Army commanded by Wellington, serving in Spain, Portugal and France until the end of the war in 1814 when he retired and was knighted. McGrigor proved himself to be an excellent administrator and it was during this period that he introduced the system of staged evacuation of sick and wounded men. He also persuaded Wellington, following the siege of Badajoz, to mention medical officers in dispatches for the first time.

He came out of retirement in June 1815 to accept the post of director-general of the Army Medical Department, a position he held until 1851. McGrigor introduced several important changes during his time as director-general including the introduction of medical reports from all military stations, the provision of assistance to widows and dependents in the form of the Army Friendly Society (1816) and the Army Benevolent Society (1820), research into all aspects of army health and the development of chairs of military medicine in Dublin and Edinburgh, improving the system of selection of men seeking commissions in the medical services and securing the honour of royal commissions for medical officers.

Among many honours bestowed on McGrigor he was awarded the freedom of the cities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh, elected rector of Marischal College in 1826, 1827 and 1841, created a baronet in September 1831 and made a KCB in 1850. He was also author of several works including 'Medical Sketch of the Expedition to Egypt from India' (1804).
Description Collection of papers belonging to Sir James McGrigor including letter books, case books and records of post-mortem examinations. There are also a series of journals kept by McGrigor when he was Chief of the Medical Staff of the army commanded by Wellington during the Peninsular War, in addition to medical reports detailing the health of the army during this period. Other records include a register of the weather and the covering letter sent by McGrigor bequeathing the collection to the Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society in 1847.
Access Status Restricted
Access Conditions Please note that although the catalogue is available via the Special Collections website, the papers are held by the Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society at its offices in the Medical School building, Foresterhill, Aberdeen. Please contact the Society directly to arrange access to the records: Tel. 01224 437104; Email:
Finding Aids Typed transcriptions of the journals kept by McGrigor during his time in the Peninsula are also available for consultation. These were written by Mr. A. Adam and Colonel Whyte.
Related Material MS 3693: Autograph letter from Sir James McGrigor to John Gunning [deputy inspector of hospitals], 1813.
MARISCHAL/1/2/1/5: Minute of Senate meeting of 22 August 1859 at which it records its approval of monument to McGrigor to be erected at Marischal College.

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