|Description||Comrie was born on 23rd February 1875 in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, an only child and the son and grandson of medical men. He entered the University of Edinburgh in 1891, where he obtained an MA in 1894, a BSc in 1897 and an MB in 1899. |
After his graduation, Comrie was chosen as Resident Physician for Dr Affleck's wards in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. In 1900 he became a Resident Surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. After this he spent a few months in London, England, taking several posts as Clinical Assistant in the Royal Ophthalmic Hospital, the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic, and the Throat Hospital, Golden Square. In 1901 he went to Berlin, German and studied pathology under Professor Rudolf Virchow, also attending lectures by the pioneering bacteriologist Robert Koch. He returned to Edinburgh, Scotland in 1902, in which year he gained his membership of the Royal College of Physicians and became one of the physicians to the New Town Dispensary, a post he held for five years. He also worked as a Clinical Assistant, and later Clinical Tutor at the Royal Infirmary, and was Registrar to Leith Hospital from 1902 to 1906.
In March 1906 Comrie completed work for his first major publication: Black's Medical Dictionary. Comrie was elected a Fellow of the Edinburgh College in 1906. The following year, he spent the spring vacation in Vienna studying pathology under Professor Heinrich Obersteiner and later engaged in bacteriological research at the College Laboratory under Dr James Ritchie. His career at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary progressed with his appointment as assistant pathologist in 1908, assistant physician in 1913 and full physician in 1927. At the time of his death he was the senior physician.
In 1907 the University founded the first British lectureship in the history of medicine. Comrie held this post from 1908 until his death, and proved to be a popular and individualistic teacher.
During the First World War he was in charge of wards in the 2nd Scottish General Hospital; president of the recruiting medical board of the Royal Scots area; Lieutenant-Colonel of the medical division in No. 73 General Hospital in France and finally became consultant physician in North Russia.
In 1912 Comrie inaugurated the Edinburgh Series of Medical Texts as general editor. The first edition of his History of Scottish Medicine appeared in 1927, and a second enlarged edition was published in 1931 to mark the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. His book on Diet in Health and Sickness was published in 1933, and in 1938, for one year until his death, Comrie edited the Edinburgh Medical Journal.
[Source: biography written by archivist Joy Pitman, c1990; see biographical file]
Contents: Journals of a trip to Russia, 1919; history of medicine lectures, 1908-1926; lectures and addresses, 1899-1939; illustrations collected by Comrie, 1910-1930s; correspondence, 1897-1939; printing blocks, 1920s; certificate of John Comrie, 1841