Captain (Temporary Commission) John Ferguson Smith

Biography of Captain (Temporary Commission) John Ferguson Smith

Dr John Ferguson Smith was born on 11th August 1888 in East Ham, London. His father, John Francis was a clergyman. The family came from Edinburgh originally but when they returned to Scotland it was to Glasgow. John was educated at the High School of Glasgow and the University of Glasgow, where he matriculated in the autumn of 1904 to study for an Arts degree. At that time the family home was in North Frederick Street. He took Greek, Logic and English in his first year.

The results were uneven. Placed thirteenth in Professor Phillimore’s Greek class, he struggled with Logic, which he passed after several attempts in 1906. He was still young, just sixteen in his first year, and his academic life a little erratic. Further struggles with Chemistry and Botany ended well when he graduated MA in 1907.

By contrast, he did extremely well in Medicine and took a handful of First Class certificates in Practical Pathology and Medicine, and a number of Merits in Surgery, Anatomy, Insanity and Materia Medica. When he graduated MB ChB in 1911, it was with commendation, among the top students of his year.

John took a year of general practice among coal miners in Ayrshire, worked as a house physician at the Western Infirmary and began bacteriological research under Carl Browning, with whom he made a friendship that would last for sixty years. He took a year out to become a ship’s doctor with the Blue Funnel Line before returning to work with Professor Browning.

When the First World War broke out, he volunteered and was posted to Northern France to help set up a base hospital. In 1915 he transferred to the 8th London (Howitzer) Brigade, with whom he served at the battles of Loos, the Somme, and Messines. In September 1917 he joined the 26th General Hospital at Etaples and, amongst other duties, looked after British army patients suffering skin diseases.

He was demobilised in 1919, returned to Glasgow and bought a small general practice in Partick. He worked there for three years, but at the same time had picked up his research interest in skins and assisted in the dermatology department of Glasgow Royal. In 1922 he was appointed head of that department and became a Lecturer in the University Dermatology Department. To these interests he added venereolgy, and developed the Broomielaw Clinic for Glasgow Corporation. An active member of the British Association of Dermatologists, he became its President.

Dr Smith remained an active researcher, and in 1936 he was awarded an MD with Honours and a Bellahouston medal for his work on sycosis barbae, a shaving infection that afflicted men before the days of antibiotics. He died at Strathtay, Perthshire, on 29th April 1978 after a long life, full of adventure as well as professional distinction.


Captain (Temporary Commission) John Ferguson Smith
Rank: Captain (Temporary Commission)
Regiment: Royal Army Medical Corps
Degree: MA, MB
Awards: Mentioned in Despatches
Comments: N/A
Note/Press Clipping: N/A
Photo ID: N/A


University of Glasgow Registry, Faculty and General Council Records

Obituary: The College Courant, Vol 30 No 61 (1978), p44

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