|Description||Girdwood gained entry to medical school in 1934 and was awarded a Carnegie Scholarship of £50 per year. In 1939 he was awarded an Honours degree and the William Leslie Gold Medal, and was named Ettles Scholar as the most distinguished graduate of his year. His first apprenticeship was with Professor (later Sir) Stanley Davidson in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, but his civilian career was then interrupted by World War II.|
His medical military service was mainly in India. He was able to undertake research into the epidemics of anaemia, sore tongue, weight loss and diarrhoea affecting the British and Indian troops and civilian Indians. This was tropical sprue and he demonstrated the megaloblastic anaemia ultimately found to be due to folate deficiency.
His interest in the megaloblastic anaemias was pursued on his return to Edinburgh and during a Rockefeller Research Fellowship at Ann Arbor and a visiting lectureship at Yale in the USA. Although he never emphasised his contribution to medical science, he was held in the highest regard by haematologists. His academic excellence is reflected in his MD, for which he was awarded a Gold Medal in 1954, the award of the Cullen Prize by the College in 1970, and his admission to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1978. He published extensively and contributed to many books, including Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine, the first medical textbook to sell more than a million copies.
Girdwood succeeded Sir Derrick Dunlop as Professor of Therapeutics in 1962, a post he held until 1982. He was also Dean of the Faculty of Medicine 1975-79. From 1982-1985 he was made President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. His Presidency saw the building of the Queen Mother Conference Centre at the College and the establishment of the "Chronicle", forerunner of the modern Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. In 1986 he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to medicine.
In retirement he continued for some time as Chairman of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Association. He never lost his interest in the College, and he found time to write his autobiography.
[Source: obituary in the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh)
Contents: Unpublished papers, 1945-1980s; published papers, 1975-1995; personal papers, 1962-1984