Sir (William) Wilson Jameson

12 May 1885 - 18 October 1962

(William) Wilson Jameson was born at Craigie, Perth but retured to his mother's home town of Aberdeen on the death of his father. He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and King's College, Aberdeen University, graduating MA (1905) before transferring to Marischal College to qualify MB ChB (1909). As a medical student, he would have attended lectures by the visionary Professor Matthew Hay, a powerful advocate for Public Health. Initially working in London, he obtained the MD (1912) from Aberdeen University with a thesis dealing with the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.

Jameson had experience as a specialist sanitary officer in the RAMC in World War I, returning to the teaching of public health at University College after the war. He was Medical Officer of Health in several London Boroughs. He also trained in law and was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple in 1922.

In 1929, he became the first professor of public health in the newly created School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. As Dean (1931) of that institution, he travelled widely on behalf of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Health Committee of the League of Nations. His publications include "A Synopsis of Hygiene" with G. S. Parkinson (Churchill, London, 1936).

Sir Wilson Jameson was appointed Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education in 1940. As CMO, the challenges of wartime included maintaining the health of those evacuated from their homes and food rationing. There were innumerable infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, diphtheria and venereal disease. He spoke directly about these illnesses in broadcasts and press conferences. Additionally he oversaw the surveys of hospitals to plan for the National Health Service.

He remained in post throughout World War II and until after the formation of the National Health Service. As early as 1943, the Ministry of Health was considering the transition of the wartime emergency medical service into a comprehensive health service. In the complex negotiations Jameson was able to bridge the gap between the government and the medical profession, gauging the latter’s reaction to draft proposals.The NHS Act was introduced four months after the 1945 election and passed during the first session of the new Parliament. The essential values which Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Health, expressed at the launch on 5 July 1948 were, that the services were for everyone, healthcare was free and care would be provided based on need rather than ability to pay. In 1948, Sir Wilson Jameson led the UK delegation to the first assembly of the World Health Organisation. Retiring in 1950, Jameson became medical adviser to the King Edward VII Hospital Fund for London.

Related reading
The Nation’s Doctor: The Role of the Chief Medical Officer 1855 - 1998 S Sheard and L J Donaldson, 2005 ISBN 1846190010
The history of the NHS

FRCP (1930)
Knighthood (1939)
KCB (1943)
GBE (1949)
Awarded the Buchanan Medal of the Royal Society.
Honorary degrees from many Universities
Bisset Hawkins medallist of the Royal College of Physicians
Lasker award of the American Public Health Association
Master of the Society of Apothecaries
United States medal of freedom

Medical Officer of Health in Finchley and St Marylebone (1920)
Professor, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (1929 - 40)
Dean, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (1931 - 40)
Chief Medical Officer of England (1940 - 1950)


British Medical Journal 1962(2), 5312; 1131-3
Lancet 1962,2, 7261; 889-91

image: Portrait by Walter Stoneman September 1941; © National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG x163187 CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Biography prepared from the nomination made by Dr M I White to the University of Aberdeen 525 Alumni project.