Sir James Cantlie KBE

17 January 1851 – 28 May 1926

Born in Banffshire. Educated at Milne’s Academy, Fochabers.  Most of his undergraduate medical training was at Charing Cross Hospital, London, but graduated from Aberdeen University with honours in 1873.  After graduation he was successively demonstrator in Anatomy, house physician, house surgeon and surgical registrar before being appointed assistant surgeon in 1877 and full surgeon in 1887.  He had developed an interest in the early treatment of injuries while working in the casualty department of Charing Cross Hospital. 

After Peter Shepherd’s death in the Zulu Wars he took over editing Shepherd’s first aid manual until in 1887 he was invited by Patrick Manson to become Dean of the College of Medicine for the Chinese in Hong Kong.  He spent nine years in Hong Kong gaining extensive experience in surgery and tropical medicine. One of his pupils was Sun Yat Sen who later founded and became president of the Chines Republic.  He returned to England in 1896 to take up the Chair of Applied Anatomy at Charing Cross Hospital. He and Patrick Manson founded the Journal of Tropical Medicine and the London School of Tropical Medicine.  He was knighted in 1918 for his war time work co-ordinating voluntary medical aid.  Throughout his life he maintained an interest in and commitment to first aid, working with both the St. John Ambulance Association and the British Red Cross Society.


  • Cofounder with Sir Patrick Manson of Hong Kong School of Medicine for Chinese
  • Co-founder of Journal of Tropical Medicine 1898
  • Co-founder with Patrick Manson of London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 1899
  • Founder of Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
  • Led campaign to rescue Sun Yat Sen from the Chinese legation in London after his kidnap by the Chinese secret service, saving him from certain death.  Sun Yat Sen later founded and became first president of the Chinese Republic.
  • Pioneer of first aid

Image credit: Wellcome Library no. 45529i CC B 4.0

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