MB CM (Hons) MD Edinburgh

Matthew Hay may have become the ‘best known medical man in the Kingdom’ but when he was young on one or two occasions his career could have taken a different direction. He was born in Slamannan in Stirlingshire into a coal mining owning family. When Matthew was still at University his father bought an iron foundry and Matthew considered leaving his medical studies to work in the family business, designing improvements to the coal and iron industries. However Matthew Hay continued his medical career working in Materia Medica in Edinburgh and studying in Europe.

His next life changing decision occurred when he was appointed to the Chair of Pharmacology and Therapeutics in Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. William Osler, whom Hay had met in Berlin had become Professor of Medicine at this American University but Matthew Hay declined the position and instead took the Chair of Medical Logic and Jurisprudence in Aberdeen. Here he spent the rest of his life working to improve conditions in the North East of Scotland. He was Medical Officer of Health for 35 years and was a pioneer of the Joint Hospital Scheme, bringing all the hospitals on to one site at Foresterhill.

After the sudden death of Professor Alexander Dyce Davidson in 1886, Matthew Hay was asked to lecture in Materia Medica and the Medico-Chirurgical Society holds his lecture notes. Our librarian, Hilary Hinton’s great grandfather came from Slamannan and worked in Camelon iron foundry. He may have known the Hay family.

Matthew Hay was a kind, generous man, interested in the welfare of everyone he met. An example of his generosity hangs on the wall in the West Kirk of St Nicholas. A pewter alms dish was used before the fire of 1874 and then went into private possession. In 1927 it was bought and restored by Professor Matthew Hay.