Dr John Smith

24 July 1892 - 19 June 1976

MD (1922)
DSc (1927)
LLD (1965)

John Smith, son of a Banffshire farmer was born at Bogs of Enzie and graduated MB ChB at Aberdeen University in 1915. He served in France as a regimental medical officer from 1915 to 1918 and was invalided from the Medical Corps. He obtained the diploma in public health at Aberdeen and in 1920, was appointed Assistant Medical Officer of Health, with special duties in connection with the clinical and laboratory diagnosis of infectious diseases at the City Hospital, Aberdeen, where a new laboratory was being established. The laboratory services developed rapidly and the post became a full time laboratory commitment with John Smith as director. It served both hospital and community and established a national and international reputation in the fields of bacteriology and epidemiology. 

He built up a laboratory service in bacteriology, haematology and clinical chemistry for the hospitals in north-east Scotland and helped establish the Public Health Department for Aberdeen and surrounding areas. His concept of a regional laboratory service translated into a high quality service and was used as a template by the Medical Research Council when it established the emergency public health laboratory service for England and Wales. He also established a prepaid postal laboratory service for general practitioners. 

Of particular significance was his work on the causation and source of infection in puerperal fever, identifying the role of the Streptococcus and the hazards of cross infection from clinical staff to patients. For this work, he was awarded the Nichols prize of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1931, and again in 1934. He also received the Katherine Bishop Harman prize of the British Medical Association in 1932 for his work on the prevention of puerperal fever. A further award came to him in 1954 from the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, in the form of a Lister fellowship for his bacteriological researches into infantile gastroenteritis and the association of serological types of E.coli with that disease. His contributions to our understanding of Weil’s disease and undulant fever, and the demonstration of new types of salmonellae, are worthy of note.

Biography prepared from the nomination made to the University of Aberdeen 525 Alumni project.