|Description||Gilchrist was born on 7 July 1899 at the manse, Holywood, co. Down, Northern Ireland. His parents were Scottish and he was educated at George Watson's Boys' College in Edinburgh, Campbell College in Belfast (1913-16), and the University of Edinburgh (1917-21), where he qualified in medicine. He became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh when only thirty, and received a gold medal for his MD thesis in 1933.|
After junior appointments at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, the Princess Elizabeth Hospital for Children, London, and a year at the Rockefeller Hospital in New York, Gilchrist was appointed to the consultant staff of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in 1930 at the early age of thirty-one. This early security permitted him to develop his lifelong interest in heart disease, leading to the establishment of a dedicated department of cardiology in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in 1953.
In 1930 Gilchrist reported in the Edinburgh Medical Journal the first seven cases of coronary thrombosis recorded in Europe. As an alert young physician, working in acute medical wards of the Royal Infirmary, this was his total experience of the previous four years. It was a seminal report, ignored by almost all his seniors - most of whom had not heard of the condition or did not believe that it was compatible with survival. Recognizing that his contemporaries were excellent physicians and that it was unlikely that they would fail to make the correct diagnosis, Gilchrist was firmly of the view years later that coronary heart attacks (first described in 1911) were a new disease.
Gilchrist was a founder member in 1959 of the British Heart Foundation. He recognized that the amount of money available for research into heart and circulatory diseases from official sources was very limited. He was president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh from 1957 to 1960 and was made an honorary fellow in 1990. He was also a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, London, from 1944. He retired in 1964, ironically after a major coronary thrombosis, but survived another thirty years-an unusually long survival, which Gilchrist himself had thought impossible when he was in active consultant service. He died at his home in Edinburgh, on 1 March 1995.
[Source: Dictionary of National Biography]
Contents: Papers relating to the Clinical Research Laboratory, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, 1909-1964; research papers including slides and films of electrocardiograms, 1927-c1963; patient files, 1934-1964; personal papers including speeches, 1933-1987; published articles, 1925-1987