Lives of the fellows

William Stuart Mcrae Craig

b.19 July 1903 d.27 June 1975
BSc Glasg(1924) MB ChB Edin(1930) MRCPE(1933) MD(1933) FRCPE(1936) MRCP(1946) FRCP(1956) FRSE(1937)

William Stuart McRae Craig was born at Bingley, Yorkshire, the son of William Craig, a Yorkshire general practitioner of Scottish origins, and his wife Catherine Jane, daughter of James Thomson Stuart, a Presbyterian minister. He was educated at Bingley Grammar School, George Watson’s College, Edinburgh, and the University of Glasgow where he graduated BSc in naval architecture in 1924. He worked for some time in the Clydeside shipyards, but on deciding to follow in his father’s footsteps he entered Edinburgh University, graduating MB ChB in 1930, proceeding MD in 1933. He became a member of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh that same year, being elected a Fellow in 1936. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1937. Following his membership of the College in 1946, he was elected a Fellow in 1956.

Craig was a pioneer in the field of community and preventive paediatrics. For him, prevention was the first consideration. By 1936 he had published several papers and was assistant paediatrician to Professor Charles McNeil at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, from whom he learned the importance of prevention and social care in paediatrics. He was a worthy pupil of a worthy master. In those days, however, there was little hope of early advancement and young paediatricians had small incomes. He joined the Ministry of Health in 1936 and was seconded to the Emergency Medical Service in 1941, where he became medical officer in charge of the South-eastern Region.

In 1946 he published Child and Adolescent Life in Health and Disease, the first book of its kind on social paediatrics, which was soon considered essential reading for budding paediatricians. In the same year he was appointed to the first full time chair of paediatrics and child health at Leeds University, a post he held until 1968. Although criticized for not building up a department dedicated to research he was unrepentant, seeing his main task as the training of students for family practice. He loved teaching and was an admirable examiner. He took a full load of clinical duties in addition to his administrative work. During his 22 years at Leeds he published more than seventy papers, of which at the very least twelve can be considered as outstanding. His second book, Care of the Newly Born Infant was published in 1955 and has already gone into at least five editions.

In 1934 he married Beatrice Anne, daughter of Thomas George Hodgson, and in his work and writing he relied heavily on her advice and encouragement, especially her experience as sister in charge of a children’s ward which was of great value to him. They had no children, but their 41 years of married life were an example of a true partnership.

On his retirement he returned to Scotland, settled at Gifford, and wrote his delightful monograph John Thomson, Pioneer and Father of Scottish Paediatrics (1968). In 1969 he gave the first Charles McNeil memorial lecture at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and he finished writing a history of the College before his death. He was a kind and generous man, but expected a very high standard from his students. He would not tolerate dishonesty of any sort, deviousness or hypocrisy, in anyone. Off duty, he was a delightful companion, interested in ships and shipping, travelling and sketching.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

[, 1975, 3, 103; Lancet, 1975, 2, 43; Times, 24 June, 1975; RCP Edin. Chron., Oct 1975, 5 (4)]

(Volume VI, page 126)

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