Mackenzie, William Leslie, Sir

Biography: Health administrator. Born 1862 at Shandwick Mains, a small farming community in Easter Ross. He attended the local school until he was 14, then Aberdeen Grammar School til he was 16. M.A. in philosophy and classics, University of Aberdeen, 1883, and then spent a term studying at the University of Edinburgh. He then decided to enter medicine, and received a bursary to study at Aberdeen, graduating MB, CM in 1888. Became resident assistant physician at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. Obtained a diploma in public health, 1890, and became assistant medical officer in Aberdeen, then county medical officer for Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire in 1891. Appointed medical officer for Leith, 1894, after an outbreak of smallpox. He introduced immediate disinfection of homes after a case of TB, "rigorously attended to" outbreaks of diphtheria and called for regular medical inspection of children and the provision of milk for expectant mothers. M.D., University of Edinburgh, 1895, received highest honours. Became the Scottish Local Government Board's first medical inspector in 1901, and in 1902 conducted a survey of 600 schoolchildren for the royal commission which demonstrated the poor medical condition of inner city children. This survey led to MPs demanding a school meals service and regular medical inspection. Appointed as the medical member of the Scottish Local Government Board in 1904, and was a member of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service Board from 1913-19. He gave evidence to royal commissions on the "care and control of the feeble-minded" in 1908 and on the poor laws in 1909, and served on several other government and medical commissions. The most important of these was the royal commission on housing, 1913-17. This led to the 1919 Housing Bill, which Mackenzie helped to draft. He was knighted in 1919 on the personal recommendation of Lloyd George. In the 1920s, his administrative plans for the Highlands and Islands Medical Service were followed by governments in Canada, the United States and South Africa. He wrote widely in medical journals, but is best known for The Medical Inspection of Schoolchildren (1904), The Health of the School Child (1906), Health and Disease (1911), and Scottish Mothers and Children (1917). Mackenzie was radical in promoting a movement of personal fitness, rather than controlling environmental factors of disease - "Mackenzie's contemporaries regarded him with awe, as a radical philosopher who saw medicine not as a palliative nor a means for private gain, but as an instrument of social development." He died in February 1935, after a long illness.

Biography Date: 1862-1935

Biography References: LOC; DNB


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