Lives of the fellows

George (Sir) Buchanan

b.5 November 1831 d.5 May 1895
BA Lond(1851) MB(1854) MD Hon LLD Edin FRCP(1866) FRS

George Buchanan was born at Islington, the elder son of George Adam Buchanan, a general practitioner, and was educated at University College School and University College, where he took the B.A. degree in 1851 and the M.B. in 1854, having gained medals and scholarships in medicine and surgery. He served for a time as resident medical officer at the London Fever Hospital where he afterwards became physician (1861-68) and consulting physician, and as assistant physician to the Hospital for Sick Children. His real career began when he became medical officer of health to the St. Giles’s district in 1857; his first report was a model of statistical completeness as well as an unanswerable attack on the evils of overcrowding and on the absence of proper examination, in slaughter-houses, of animals intended for human consumption. His work was impossible to ignore. He was invited to become, in 1861, an occasional inspector for the Privy Council’s medical department, for which he undertook various important investigations on epidemiology, drainage and water-supply. In 1869 he was made a permanent inspector and in 1871 transferred to the newly-constituted Local Government Board. His influence now became national, and probably no man of his time did more towards placing his country in the forefront of sanitary progress and efficiency. He was promoted to be the Board’s principal medical officer in 1879 and was knighted on his retirement in 1892. On the latter occasion, he received, as a personal tribute from many doctors throughout the country, a gift which he dedicated to the founding of a gold medal, known as the Buchanan Royal Society Medal, to be awarded triennially for distinguished services in sanitary science. He was a Censor of the Royal College of Physicians, and also concerned himself with London University affairs. He helped to obtain the representation of graduates in the Senate of the University, being himself one of the first graduates to be so elected by Convocation in 1882. He also helped to secure the admission of women to London degrees. He married, first, Mary Anne, daughter of George Murphy, and, secondly, Alice Mary Asmar, daughter of Dr. Edward Seaton, and left four daughters and two sons, the elder of whom was Sir George Buchanan, F.R.C.P. He died in London.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1895; B.M.J., 1895; Times, 4 June 1895; D.N.B., 1st Suppl, i, 328]

(Volume IV, page 149)

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