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David Middleton Greig

Born  1864
Died  1936

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Scottish physician, 1864-1936.

Biography of David Middleton Greig

David Middleton Greig was the son and grandson of medical practitioners. He first attended the University of St. Andrew's, but changed to the University of Edinburgh, from which he graduated in medicine in 1885. He joined his father I general practice, but his father died soon afterwards, and Greig took an appointment at the Royal Asylum in Perth, in the Tayside region of Scotland. From here he moved to the Baldovan Institute for Imbecile Children. He then spent 3 years as a military surgeon in Britain and India before returning to an appointment on the staff of Dundee Royal Infirmary. Representing the empire on which the sun never set (God would never trust an Englishman in the dark), however, has its price. When the Boer War (1899-1902) broke out in 1899 his career was interrupted once more and he served under General Sir Redvers Buller (died 1908) in Natal, at a front section with some of the most ferocious fighting and the heaviest losses of life during the whole war.

After his discharge and return to Dundee he became surgeon at the Royal Dundee Infirmary and lecturer of clinical surgery, and spent much of his time supervising the Baldovan Institute for Imbecile Children.

A man of diverse interests Greig was specially drawn to rare disorders and peculiar manifestations of disease in general. Throughout his life he collected pathological specimens like a philatelist collects stamps, he had more than 300 skulls which he included in the College Museum after his appointment. Maybe this interest in craniums, which lasted his whole life, began with his first publication in 1891: A case of gunshot injury in which a piece remains embedded in the skull for 31 years. He even discussed the cephalic peculiarities of Sir Walter Scott's head. Greig was a hardworking and skilful surgeon. In addition to his hospital duties he performed many operations in rural cottages by the light of a hurricane lamp.

It was natural that he should become curator of the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh after his retirement. He wrote many articles on clinical surgery and mental deficiency and delineated several new syndromes. Using the material in the museum he published a comprehensive account of the "surgical pathology of bone" and he received honorary doctorates of law from the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews in recognition of his work.

His publications were extremely varied, ranging from intussusception and Henoch-Schönlein purpura to a recovered stab wound of the heart, congenital oedema, a number of publications on lymphomas involving various parts of the anatomy including the skin, all varieties of anatomical congenital abnormalities, hydrophobia, syringomyelia, a case of vicarious menstruation, and a case of hypertrophy of the labia minora. He had a continuous interest in abnormalities of the scapula and torticollis. He was a particularly careful and lucid writer who paid particular attention to the use of illustrations in his contributions to surgical pathology.

Other topics were all aspects of surgery, including new methods for sterilising and storing glass, modifications of instruments, and new surgical approaches. He published on the organisation of army medical services and a number of aspects of medical problems arising in the army.

Greig was a thoughtful reader, interested in music, and even published his own book on verse, "The Rhymes of D.R.I." which looked at some of his colleagues of the Royal Dundee infirmary in a light-hearted manner and records reminiscences of his medical student days.

Despite ill health Greig was still active at the College museum until shortly before his death in 1936 at the age of 72 years.


  • Lancet, London, 1936, I: 11454.
  • British Medical Journal, London, 1936, I: 1025.
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