Lives of the fellows

Thomas Graham Balfour

b.18 March 1813 d.17 January 1891
MD Edin(1834) FRCP(1860) FRS

Graham Balfour was a native of Edinburgh, where his greatgrandfather had been a well-known professor in the University. He was educated first at the Royal High School and later at the newly-founded Academy and, in his boyhood, might well have met Walter Scott in the streets of the city. As an undergraduate at Edinburgh University he was a frequent visitor to the manse at Colinton, where his uncle, the grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson, was minister; and among his intimates was John Brown, the author of Rab and His Friends. After taking his M.D. in 1834, Balfour entered the army. His first task was to assist William Marshall and Alexander Tulloch in classifying medical statistics that had accumulated since the Waterloo campaign. In 1840 he was gazetted assistant surgeon to the Grenadier Guards, and in 1848 became surgeon to the Duke of York’s Asylum for Soldiers’ Orphans at Chelsea. During the Crimean War, Balfour, in conjunction with Tulloch, fought for reforms, which were strongly opposed. At the end of the War he was appointed secretary to Sidney Herbert’s Commission, whose report effected a complete reorganisation of the Army Medical Department. When the statistical branch was formed in 1859, Balfour, now a deputy-surgeon-general, was placed in charge. In this capacity he was responsible for laying down the future pattern of the annual health returns of the British Army all over the world. He represented the War Office at the International Statistical Congress at Florence in 1867 and, after his promotion to surgeon-general in 1873, became principal medical officer at Netley and later at Gibraltar. After his retirement in 1876 he held the office of president of the Statistical Society in 1888, and he became a member of the Metropolitan Asylums Board in 1890. Balfour was a fine administrator, and endowed with sound judgment and a keen sense of humour. He was married.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1891; B.M.J., 1891; C. Woodham-Smith, Florence Nightingale, 1950, 271, 281; Roll of Army Medical Service, 4449]

(Volume IV, page 123)

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