Lives of the fellows

James Davidson Stuart (Sir) Cameron

b.28 December 1900 d.13 February 1969
Kt(1965) TD(1952) CBE(1945) MB ChB Edin(1923) FRCPE(1928) MD(1932) MRCP(1954) FRCP(1960) PRCPE(1960-1963)

Sir James Cameron died tragically and suddenly at the age of 68. Characteristically he was actually conducting a meeting in connection with the proposed new Edinburgh Medical Library when the fatal seizure occurred.

James Cameron was a native of Montrose and was educated there and later at Edinburgh University, where he graduated in medicine in 1923. His Junior House Officer posts were at Edenhall Hospital and at Highbury Hospital, Birmingham. In 1926 he entered the service of the University of Edinburgh as a Lecturer in Physiology in Sir Edward Sharpey-Schafer’s Department, his particular subject being the physiology of the special senses. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1928 and in 1932 he proceeded to the Doctorate of Medicine with Honours, and was awarded a Gold Medal for his thesis on renal function. He became a member of the Honorary Staff of the Royal Infirmary in 1933 - a post which he held for over thirty years. Initially assisting Professor Matthew in his consulting practice, he speedily became a consultant physician in his own right and built up a very wide practice.

In 1938, when war was clearly inevitable, Dr. Cameron volunteered for service with the Territorial Army and became an officer in the 11th (2nd Scottish), later the 23rd (Scottish) General Hospital, and was mobilized on the outbreak of war. He served with that Unit in Peebles in 1939-40 and in the Middle East from 1940, before transfer to a hospital in Jerusalem, and he was later posted as Consulting Physician to Southern India in the rank of Colonel. A year or two later he became a Brigadier, as Consulting Physician for All-India Command, winning immense respect and esteem throughout the Sub-Continent (a post in which he was succeeded by Colonel Platt, later Lord Platt PRCP). It was appropriate that on his return to civil life he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

In the post war years in Edinburgh he became a notable figure. He was a gifted if somewhat didactic teacher, a physician of wide experience whose opinion was greatly valued, and a devoted servant of the Royal College of Physicians. His integrity, his impartiality and his insight into affairs earned respect not in Edinburgh alone, or indeed Scotland, but also in the South. He served for many years as a member of the Joint Consultants Committee for the United Kingdom, meeting regularly in London and dealing with the affairs of medicine under the impact of the National Health Service. His years of devoted service to the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh were justly recognized, after many years as Councillor and Vice President, by his election unopposed as President of that body, an office which he held from 1960 to 1963. It was during these years and under his stimulus that several notable advances in the affairs of the College were made, for example the institution of the St. Andrew’s Day Festival, a symposium of papers delivered over two days around the time of the College Annual General Meeting, and the foregathering from time to time of the Presidents of all the Royal Colleges of Physicians throughout the Commonwealth for consultation. The first meeting of this kind was held in Edinburgh under his Chairmanship.

His services to medicine were fittingly recognized when he was awarded his knighthood in 1965. In that year, a year before he was due to retire on age from the staff of the Royal Infirmary, he resigned in order to take up an appointment as Adviser in Postgraduate Medicine to the Government of East Pakistan, and he became Director of the Institute of Postgraduate Medicine in Dacca, where he worked for the next three years. After two years he came home on leave ill, tired and obviously strained. Despite protestations he went back for a further year. On his return finally to Edinburgh he was appointed Honorary Librarian to the Royal College of Physicians and took a very active part in negotiations for the possible establishment of a Common Medical Library for Edinburgh - one in which the University, both Royal Colleges, the Royal Medical Society and other bodies might participate. As stated above, it was at a meeting concerned with these matters that he died suddenly.

Sir James Cameron - affectionately known as JDS - was a man of uncompromising integrity and a devout Churchman. A lifelong teetotaller and non-smoker, he was human enough to offer cigarettes and wine to guests in his home. Throughout his life he pursued what he conceived to be his duty, and no thought of personal advancement or advantage seemed ever to enter into his actions. It was this integrity which above all commanded the respect of a very wide circle of friends and colleagues.

There would be countless individuals, former patients, former students, former graduate students scattered all over the world, who heard of the passing of Sir James Cameron with great sorrow.

In 1929 he married Ester Dover, believed to come from a missionary family in India; their hospitality was famous for its warmth. They had no children.

IGH Wilson

[Brit. Med. J., 1969, 1, 517, 650, 788; 2, 126; Lancet, 1969, 1, 427; Scotsman, 15 & 20 Feb 1969; Glasgow Herald 15 Feb 1969]

(Volume VI, page 82)

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