Lives of the fellows

James Macalister Mackintosh

b.17 February 1891 d.20 April 1966
MA Glasg(1911) MB ChB(1916) DPH(1920) MD(1923) FRCPE(1943) FRCP(1943) Hon LLD Glasg(1950) Hon FRCGP(1956) Hon LLD Birm(1961)

James Mackintosh was born in Kilmarnock, the son of J.D.Mackintosh, a solicitor. He was educated at Glasgow High School and Glasgow University, taking the MA in 1911. His medical studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the first world war, in which he served in France with a commission in the 6th Cameron Highlanders. After being wounded, he returned to qualify MB ChB in 1916, joined the RAMC and went back to France as captain in 1918. After demobilization in 1920 he took the DPH and was appointed assistant medical officer in Dorset. Thereafter he began that peripatetic mode of existence and movement from post to post which was the career pattern of the public health officer of those days. Four years in Dorset were followed by two in Burton-on-Trent and three in Leicestershire. In 1930 he became county medical officer of Northampton, where he remained for seven years. He proceeded MD in 1923, and in 1929 became barrister-at-law, Gray’s Inn. He soon became an authority on rural housing; the siting, construction and sanitary amenities of rural cottages and the lives, habits and financial resources of those who lived in them. He was in considerable demand at housing conferences because of his experience and his remarkable gift of public speaking.

Mackintosh returned to Scotland in 1937 as Chief Medical Officer to the Department of Health for Scotland. He was president of the section of public health and hygiene at the BMA Annual Meeting in 1939, appointed professor of public health in the University of Glasgow in 1941, and was elected a Fellow of the College in 1943. The same year he was elected FRCPE, and in 1950 received the honorary LLD of Glasgow. In 1944 he was appointed professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, of which he subsequently became dean. On his retirement from university work in 1956 the title of emeritus professor of public health was conferred on him by the University of London. In the same year he was appointed chairman of a subcommittee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee set up by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. He was made an honorary Fellow of the College of General Practitioners in 1956, and in 1961 the University of Birmingham conferred on him an honorary LLD.

James Mackintosh gave a series of postgraduate lectures at the Johns Hopkins University, and toured practically every state in the union either as an exchange professor or as a consultant with one or other of the great Foundations. His most important international work was carried out under the aegis of the World Health Organisation. Very soon after it was set up he was invited to take part in meetings of experts on public health administration, and to act as a consultant on rural housing. His advice was also sought on public health teaching and, with Fred Grundy, he carried out an important study on the Teaching of Hygiene and Public Health in Europe (1957). His introductory survey to the first report on the World Health Situation, 1959, was one of the finest short monographs on the theory and practice of international public health ever written. During the two year absence of the director of the WHO Division of Education and Training on a sabbatical appointment, Mackintosh acted in his place. He left Geneva in 1960, returning to the United States to join the staffs of the Millbank and Avalon Foundations, where his old friends Frank G. Boudreau and Thomas Paran were the respective presidents.

After his retirement to Bristol he continued to write and his essays on Topics in Public Health were published in 1965. At this time his sight, which had been failing for some years, became worse, and he went to Johns Hopkins Hospital for operative treatment for double cararact. His devoted wife, Marjorie, daughter of David Strathie C.A., whom he married in 1919, had become slightly deaf and James said that she ‘had eyes for both of us, and I have ears, so we get on quite well’. They had three children.

Mackintosh was short, slim, with twinkling eyes, and always ready with a quip or jest. He had a great capacity for making friends, ever willing to show a kindly interest or extend a helping hand, and he retained them all. His humanity endeared him to those who came under his tutelage, or those with whom he worked, and he was never lonely in the years of his retirement, for his many friends were always prepared to make the pilgrimage to Bristol to see him. His abiding interest in human beings, his inquiring mind, and his philosophy of life and health, all combined to make him one of the greatest exponents of the social aspects of medicine. He was a competent classical scholar and in his later years turned more particularly to the international language of great music, especially Mozart and Beethoven. He also experimented with poetry, and a slim volume under the title Airs, Water and Places delights all those who scan its pages. The story of ‘Shaky Suzie’ the ‘street car No.5 in Geneva’, so well known to the oldtimers of the Palais des Nations, came from his pen.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

[Times, 21 Apr 1966; Glasgow Herald, 21 Apr 1966; Brit.med.J., 1966, 1, 1118 & 1367; Lancet, 1966, 1, 988; Medical Officer, London, 29 Apr 1966; Univ. Lond. Gaz., July, 1956, 108]

(Volume VI, page 317)

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