Andrew Semple

Biography of Andrew Semple

Andrew B. Semple
Andrew B. Semple

Andrew Semple graduated from the University MB ChB in 1934, DPH 1936, and MD 1947. He went on to become the Medical Officer of Health for Liverpool with great success in fighting infectious diseases and slum conditions.

Andrew was born in Glasgow on 3rd May 1912 and was educated at Allan Glen’s school, Glasgow, before studying at the University. His first year at the University was 1929 and during his studies he received a second class certificate for Clinical Midwifery. Semple passed his MD with Commendation, with a thesis titled: Epidemiology & control of phlebotomus fever.

During his studies, Semple specialised in public health and after graduation he served as an assistant Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for Paisley, Portsmouth, and Blackburn.

During WWII, Semple served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and undertook active service in the Second Submarine Flotilla where he gained the rank of surgeon commander. It was during this time that Semple made an important contribution to naval safety. He noticed that submariners had difficulty in adjusting their eyesight from the well-lit interior of the submarine, to the dark observation tower and so proposed amber lighting (now red) in submarine interiors. This was immediately implemented. He was then transferred to Liverpool as a medical officer and afterwards posted to Malta and the Central Mediterranean as naval medical officer.

After the War Andrew became senior assistant MOH in Manchester, and then deputy MOH in Liverpool, July 1948. In 1953 he was promoted to MOH for Liverpool, a city that was facing a post-war decline and consistently high rates of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. At this time, Semple was also Professor of public health at the University of Liverpool.

Semple tackled the tuberculosis problem with an x-ray campaign, designed to detect asymptomatic cases. He used a fleet of mobile x-ray vans to begin the campaign, to x-ray all 500,000 of Liverpool’s inhabitants, in 1959. Dockers were initially hostile to this scheme due to concerns that they may be found unfit for work however Semple used the media, celebrity support, and other incentives, to encourage participation. The campaign led to the discovery of a significant number of new TB cases and dramatically reduced new infections.

Semple helped to design replacement housing estates for the rehousing of families of TB patients and also turned his attention to child and adolescent health and wellbeing. He introduced immunisation schemes for whooping cough and polio and in 1971, established one of the first health education teams in Britain. He also helped establish an employment unit for adolescents with learning difficulties. He demonstrated his concern for the welfare of the elderly, too, by creating care homes.

He was politically tenacious when it came to arguing his case to the city council. He managed to establish a free local authority family planning service, and called for the introduction of one of the UK’s first smokeless zones, to combat the high rates of chest diseases contributed to by the city’s pollution.

He was also active at a national level and served on the 1959 Younghusband Committee on social workers, and on government committees tackling smallpox and rabies. Semple was a member of the board of the Royal College of Physicians, chair of council and treasurer for the Royal Society of Health, and, from 1963-65, honorary physician to the Queen. He was also closely involved with the World Health Organisation and his work in Liverpool became the feature article of the World Health magazine in 1963.

Andrew Semple retired to Northamptonshire with his wife, Jean, and died on 15th November 2013.


Andrew Semple
Born 3 May 1912.
Died 15 November 2013.
University Link: Graduate
GU Degrees: MBChB, 1934; DPH, 1936; MD, 1947;
Occupation categories: medical officers of health
Record last updated: 22nd Sep 2016

University Connections

University Roles

  • Graduate

There are no comments available.