Sir James Mackenzie is best known as a Scottish cardiologist, a pioneer in the study of cardiac arrhythmias and the use of digitalis in its treatment. He was born in Scotland and received his medical degree at the University of Edinburgh in 1882. His practice in Lancashire flourished while he continued his research and published numerous papers. His reputation grew rapidly and he moved to London to open a medical practice in 1907.
American College of Surgeons founder Franklin Martin, MD, FACS, met him in 1917. By that time, Sir Mackenzie had been knighted for his services, and had received many other honors. In that year, Dr. Martin was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson as the medical representative to Wilson’s National Advisory Council, the civilian arm of the World War I effort. Dr. Martin was authorized to appoint a General Medical Board to assist him and, in addition to the group of North American medical personnel Dr. Martin called on, he asked for a group of British doctors to aid in the enrollment of medical officers. Sir James Mackenzie, accompanied by Dr. Martin’s friends, Sir Artbuthnot Lane and Colonel Herbert Bruce, spent part of the month of June 1917 traveling around the United States speaking at events designed to recruit more medical personnel. All three were guest members of the General Medical Board and attended meetings when they could.
Dr. Martin’s humorous recollection of Sir James Mackenzie, with his aversion to the midsummer heat in Washington, DC and his nervousness about speaking in front of large groups, is recounted in Dr. Martin’s autobiography, The Joy of Living.
For more information about Sir James Mackenzie’s relationship with Franklin Martin and the American College of Surgeons, and about other prominent surgeons involved in the war effort, visit the ACS Archives.