CodeDS/UK/65
Person NameMackenzie; James (1853-1925); Sir; physician; medical researcher
Dates1853-1925
TitleSir
Epithetphysician; medical researcher
HistoryMackenzie was born at his father's farm of Pictstonhill at Scone, Perthshire, on 12 April 1853. He left Perth Academy at fifteen to become apprenticed to a pharmacist, by whom four years later he was offered a partnership. Mackenzie chose instead to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh and was awarded his MD degree in 1882.

In 1879 Mackenzie joined a general practice at Burnley, Lancashire, and was appointed physician to the Victoria Hospital. His earliest work was upon herpes zoster (shingles); he made use of the phenomena displayed by this disease to map out areas of the skin supplied by the spinal nerves. Out of these observations in large part grew his later observations upon pain and tenderness which were collected in Symptoms and their Interpretation (1909). From the same basal observations he developed his studies and views of angina pectoris, published in a book of that title in 1923. His reputation rests on his long continued researches into the nature of irregularities of the heart's rhythm. The fuller studies of the pulsations, his rich experience of cardiovascular disease from other points of view, and the general philosophy underlying his work, were displayed in Diseases of the Heart (1908). Mackenzie provided striking examples of exact observation of patients, and of simple and accurate deductions from these. He did more, perhaps, than any other medical practitioner before him to place upon a rational basis forecasts of the course of heart disease in individual patients, and the treatment of heart disease by digitalis.

In 1907 he moved to London, where he became a notable consultant. He became consulting physician to the London Hospital (1913), was elected a fellow of the Royal Society (1915), was knighted (1915), and received many other honours. During the First World War he acted as consultant to the Military Heart Hospital, an institution formed chiefly at his suggestion. He ascribed soldiers' 'disordered action of the heart' to general undiagnosed infections rather than to specific physical or mental damage. In 1918 Mackenzie went to St Andrews to found the Institute of Clinical Research. He involved local general practitioners in long-term exact recording of patients' symptoms and illnesses. The conception of the institute outran its resources, and Mackenzie returned to London in 1924.

A true appreciation of Mackenzie's character and work can be obtained only if it is remembered that his chief discoveries were made in time snatched during the routine of a heavy industrial practice, and that during the last fifteen years of his life he suffered much from angina pectoris, which he had done so much to elucidate. He eventually died of the condition at his home, 53 Albert Hall Mansions, Knightsbridge, London, on 26 January 1925.

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