A Baronet at Glasgow University

On this day in 1854 Donald (later Sir Donald) Macalister was born in Perth. Because of his long association with Glasgow University, he is probably the best known descendant of the Tarbert family, but the direct line of descent is unclear. He lived briefly in Aberdeen as a child before moving with his family to Liverpool at the age of ten.[1] 

Donald was the eldest of eight children and the brother of Sir John Young Walker Macalister. Like his brother he dreamt of a medical career; unlike John, Donald eventually fulfilled this dream, earning his doctorate from Cambridge in 1884 and being elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London two years later.[2] However, much of his career was spent in academia, first as a tutor and lecturer at Cambridge, and later at Glasgow, where he was appointed principal in 1907 and chancellor in 1929. Sir Donald oversaw “an ambitious building programme” at Glasgow and the establishment of more than twenty new academic chairs,[3] including obstetrics and gynaecology, pathology, Scottish History and literature, bacteriology, mercantile law, and applied physics.[4] He published works on a similarly wide variety of topics, and was fluent in quite a number of languages. His many achievements were recognised formally with a knighthood in 1907 and a baronetcy in 1924.

Donald Macalister married later in life, and when he died in 1934, he left no children.[5] He was buried in Cambridge.[6]

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2013


[1] The Incomparable Mac: A Biographical Study of Sir John Young Walker Macalister, p. 11 
[2]Obituary: Sir Donald MacAlister, Bt., K.C.B., M.D., D.C.L., LL.D., D.Sc., F.R.C.P., Chancellor of the University of Glasgow; late President of the General Medical Council’ in the British Medical Journal (20 January, 1934): 125-6. 
[3] University of Glasgow web site 
[4] obituary 
[5] obituary 
[6] Find-a-Grave

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