Sir David Ferrier


David Ferrier described motor and sensory areas of the brain and went on to write ‘The Functions of the Brain’. His work on cerebral localisation led to operations on the brain being performed for the first time by surgeons such as Macewen of Glasgow and Rickman Godlee in London.

David Ferrier came from Woodside, Aberdeen. He graduated MA (Hons) 1863 in Aberdeen, one of the first after the fusion of Marischal College and Kings before studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh. His MD was awarded in 1868 for research into ‘the anatomy and structure of the Corpora Quadrigemina’ and this interest in the nervous system led him to conducting experiments on the brains of mammals. He built on Hughling-Jackson’s work on convulsions and discovered that stimulating one side of the brain resulted in movement on the opposite side of the body. It also led to him becoming the first scientist to be tried under the Cruelty to Animal Act in 1881; he was acquitted.

David Ferrier was acknowledged with a knighthood in 1911.

His obituary in the Aberdeen University Review in 1928 describes him as ‘the famous brain specialist and one of the University’s most brilliant graduates’ yet the only recognition he has in Aberdeen is the name of two streets in the Woodside area of the city.

Biography prepared from the nomination made by Dr Hilary Hinton to the University of Aberdeen 525 Alumni project.