Captain David Campbell

Biography of Captain David Campbell

David Campbell was born at Patna, Ayrshire, on 6th May 1889. His father, Stewart, was a teacher and his mother Agnes, a seamstress. He was educated at Ayr Academy, and after winning eleventh place in the University of Glasgow Bursary competition, went on to the University to study for an Arts degree. Studying came easily, and in the following years his interests in both Science and Arts led him to combine sufficient subjects in these two faculties to graduate in 1911, both with a BSc and an MA with Honours in Mathematics and Physics.

During these years he collected a few distinction and merit certificates, but it was when he turned his considerable intellect to Medicine that he really showed his potential. When he matriculated for the 1915 academic session, it was his ninth year as a full-time student. He graduated as top student in 1916, MB ChB with Honours.

There was a war on, and the newly qualified Dr David Campbell was ready and willing to play his part in it, serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1916 to 1919. With the rank of Captain and acting Major, he worked in a casualty clearing station at the front line in France, and was awarded a Military Cross (MC) for gallantry in the field. Safely returned to Scotland in 1919, he took up the threads of what was to be a brilliant academic career.

In 1921 he became Pollock lecturer in Materia Medica and Pharmacology at Glasgow. He also got married, to Margaret Lyle. Three years later he took an MD with Honours for his thesis on rheumatoid arthritis, a piece of work that also earned him the prized Bellahouston Gold Medal. In 1925 he made the most of an opportunity to research and travel in the United States, as a Rockefeller medical fellow at Johns Hopkins University.

In 1930 he was appointed to the Chair of Materia Medica at Aberdeen, where as Professor and Dean of Faculty he made an enormous contribution to medical education and to the organisation of Foresterhills, a complex of teaching and medical facilities that put Aberdeen at the forefront. He built a distinguished team of colleagues including Dugald Baird and Stanley Davidson and continued to contribute his own administrative energy along with outstanding skills as a teacher and clinician. In addition to these achievements, he represented Aberdeen University on the General Medical Council, and went on to become its President in 1949.

His pawky sense of humour and 'quiet, judicial yet fundamentally fair turn of mind' made him ideal for the job. Knighted in 1953, Sir David was honoured by many universities with the award of honorary degrees, including an LLD from the University of Glasgow in 1950. He retired in 1959 and was blessed with almost twenty years to enjoy a full life and a lot of golf. He died at home in Peterculter on 30th May 1978.



Captain David Campbell
Rank: Captain
Regiment: Lowland Casualty Clearing Station
Degree: BSc MB
Awards: N/A
Comments: N/A
Note/Press Clipping: N/A
Photo ID: N/A


University of Glasgow Registry, Faculty and General Council Records

Obituary: The College Courant, Vol 30 No 61, 1978, p44

Biography: William Walker, Campbell, Sir David (1889-1978), rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

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