Andrew Macphail
John Andrew Macphail, Kt
Knight Bachelor
The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

, MD, MRCS (November 24, 1864 – September 23, 1938) was a Canadian
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 physician, author, professor of medicine, and soldier. "A prolific and versatile writer, Sir Andrew Macphail was one of the most influential Canadian intellectuals of his time."

Life and Work

Macphail was born in Orwell
Orwell, Prince Edward Island
Orwell is a settlement in Queens County, Prince Edward Island.Canadian professor, physician, and intellectual Sir Andrew Macphail was born in Orwell on November 24, 1864. The Sir Andrew Macphail Foundation preserves his family home and its 140-acre property in Orwell as a museum, the Sir Andrew...

, Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is a Canadian province consisting of an island of the same name, as well as other islands. The maritime province is the smallest in the nation in both land area and population...

, on the family's newly-purchased 100-acre farm. His father was William Macphail, a schoolmaster; his mother was Catherine Moore Smith formerly of Newton, P.E.I.

Macphail was educated at Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown, and then at McGill University
McGill University
Mohammed Fathy is a public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The university bears the name of James McGill, a prominent Montreal merchant from Glasgow, Scotland, whose bequest formed the beginning of the university...

 in Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

,, where he received his received his medical degree in 1891. "During his studies at McGill Macphail wrote reviews and articles for various newspapers, including the Montreal Gazette and the Chicago Times
Chicago Times
The Chicago Times was a newspaper in Chicago from 1854 to 1895 when it merged with the Chicago Herald.The Times was founded in 1854, by James W. Sheahan, with the backing of Stephen Douglas, and was identified as a pro-slavery newspaper. In 1861, after the paper was purchased by Wilbur F...

, and saved enough money to finance a trip around the world." He resumed his studies in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, where he became "a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians
The Royal College of Physicians of London was founded in 1518 as the College of Physicians by royal charter of King Henry VIII in 1518 - the first medical institution in England to receive a royal charter...

. He returned to Canada in 1892."
He married Georgina Burlan of Montreal in 1893. They had two children, Jeffrey and Dorothy.

From 1893 until 1905 Macphail practised medicine and taught at the University of Bishop' College. At Bishop's he was professor of the diseases of children. Beginning in 1895 he also served as a consulting pathologist at the city's Western and Verdun hospitals.

In 1903 he became editor of the Montreal Medical Journal; "when it merged with another medical periodical eight years later to establish the Canadian Medical Association Journal
Canadian Medical Association Journal
The Canadian Medical Association Journal is a general medical journal that is published biweekly by the Canadian Medical Association . It covers research and ideas aimed at improving health for people in Canada and globally. CMAJ publishes original clinical research, analyses and reviews, news,...

, Macphail was made editor of the new monthly." He was editor of the Journal until the outbreak of World War I.

He was appointed McGill's first Professor of the History of Medicine
History of medicine
All human societies have medical beliefs that provide explanations for birth, death, and disease. Throughout history, illness has been attributed to witchcraft, demons, astral influence, or the will of the gods...

 in 1907, and held that position until 1937.

Macphail enlisted in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 at the age of 50, and served at the front with a field ambulance corps for 20 months. Assigned to the Sixth Field Ambulance, he "served with distinction at a number of battles including Vimy Ridge."


Macphail wrote The Medical Services, Volume One of the Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War. His volume "appeared in 1925 and, as a result of its critical view of both the minister of militia and the surgeon general, caused a major
controversy in political and military circles."

He wrote an essay on Canadian poet
Canadian poetry
- Beginnings:The earliest works of poetry, mainly written by visitors, described the new territories in optimistic terms, mainly targeted at a European audience...

 John McCrae
John McCrae
Lieutenant Colonel John Alexander McCrae was a Canadian poet, physician, author, artist and soldier during World War I and a surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres...

, "An essay in character," for the 1919 edition of McCrae's In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields
"In Flanders Fields" is one of the most notable poems written during World War I, created in the form of a French rondeau. It has been called "the most popular poem" produced during that period...

 And Other Poems.

Macphail was also a novelist. "The vine of Sibmah: a relation of the Puritans (1906) is a romantic novel set in the Restoration period. In 1921 he published the first translation of Louis Hémon
Louis Hémon
Louis Hémon , was a francophone writer best known for his novel Maria Chapdelaine.- Biography :He was born in Brest, France. In Paris, where he resided with his family, he was enrolled in the Montaigne and Louis-le-Grand secondary schools...

's classic Maria Chapdelaine
Maria Chapdelaine
Maria Chapdelaine is a novel written in 1913 by the French writer Louis Hémon, who was then residing in Quebec.-Adaptations:The novel has had three film adaptations, two French and one Québécois: in 1934, by Julien Duvivier, with Madeleine Renaud , and Jean Gabin , partly filmed in Péribonka; in...


Macphail published four one-act plays — The land (1914), The last rising (1930), Company (1936), and The new house (1937) — "none of which were performed." The Land was "a loose adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, which MacPhail uses to critique market speculation ... class inequality, and what he saw as the disintegration of the family. His solution is a return to 'the land' and to a rural agrarian society."

His 1929 book, Three persons, "is made up of extended reviews of memoirs by three figures of the First World War, including T. E. Lawrence
T. E. Lawrence
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO , known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18...

." The reviews were "a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. Indeed, the London Mercury labelled the book 'the most devastating review published in the last hundred years.'"

Macphail was "throughout his career essentially an essayist, a literary role to which his strong personalitY was ideally suited." "Essays in puritanism (1905) is a series of biographical studies of literary and religious figures; Essays in politics (1909) is about contemporary political issues, particularly ... the imperial connection between Canada and Great Britain; Essays in fallacy (1910) offers lengthy polemical critiques of feminism
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...

, modern education, and modern theological trends."

University Magazine

Many of Macphail's essays were taken from the University Magazine, a literary journal which he founded in 1907 and (except for the four years of World War I) edited until its closing in 1920. It has been called "an outstanding Canadian quarterly." The Governor General
Governor General of Canada
The Governor General of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II...

, Earl Grey
Albert Grey, 4th Earl Grey
Albert Henry George Grey, 4th Earl Grey was a British nobleman and politician who served as Governor General of Canada, the ninth since Canadian Confederation....

, called it "the best periodical published in Canada." Sponsored by Dalhousie
Dalhousie University
Dalhousie University is a public research university located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The university comprises eleven faculties including Schulich School of Law and Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine. It also includes the faculties of architecture, planning and engineering located at...

, McGill and Toronto
University of Toronto
The University of Toronto is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, situated on the grounds that surround Queen's Park. It was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King's College, the first institution of higher learning in Upper Canada...

 universities, its contributors included Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...

, several cabinet ministers, and many Canadian academics and literary figures such as Stephen Leacock
Stephen Leacock
Stephen Butler Leacock, FRSC was an English-born Canadian teacher, political scientist, writer, and humorist...

 and Marjorie Pickthall
Marjorie Pickthall
Marjorie Lowry Christie Pickthall , was a Canadian writer who was born in England but lived in Canada from the time she was seven...


The Master's Wife

Macphail's book The Master's Wife was published posthumously, in 1939. It is the book to which Macphail "devoted most care, and which he considered his best." Part biography of himself and his family ("The Master" was his father), part history of their community, Orwell, the book has been called "an excellent description of 19th century life on P.E.I., a very important social history of P.E.I.'s past."

A facsimile of the 1939 edition is sold by the University of Prince Edward Island
University of Prince Edward Island
The University of Prince Edward Island is a public liberal arts university in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, and the sole university in the province. Founded in 1969, it traces its roots back to its two earlier predecessor organizations, St. Dunstan's University and Prince of Wales...

's Institute of Island Studies, with all profits going to the Sir Andrew Macphail Foundation.


Macphail was "knighted for his literary and military work" in January 1918.

He was awarded an honorary doctorate from McGill. He received the Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

 government prize for literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 in 1928.

Macphail was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
Royal Society of Canada
The Royal Society of Canada , may also operate under the more descriptive name RSC: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada , is the oldest association of scientists and scholars in Canada...

 in 1910. In 1930, the Society awarded him its Lorne Pierce Medal
Lorne Pierce Medal
The Lorne Pierce Medal is awarded every two years by the Royal Society of Canada to recognize achievement of special significance and conspicuous merit in imaginative or critical literature written in either English or French...


The Sir Andrew Macphail Foundation preserves his birthplace and its 140-acre property in Orwell as a museum, the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead. It is the site of the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project, a joint effort of the Foundation and the Environmental Coalition of Prince Edward Island to preserve the old-growth Acadian Forest covering much of the property.


  • Essays in Politics. London, New York: Longman's Green, 1903.
  • Essays in Puritanism. London: T.F. Unwin, 1905.
  • Essays in Fallacy. New York: Longmans Green, 1910.
  • The Book of Sorrow. London, New York: Oxford U P, 1916.
  • The Cavendish Lecture on a Day's Work. London: Lancet, 1917.
  • Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War 1914-1919: The Medical Services. Ottawa: Acland, 1925.
  • An Address on American Methods in Medical Education. London: British Medical Association, 1927.
  • Three Persons. 1928.
  • The Bible in Scotland. London: J. Murray, 1931.
  • Our Canadian Speech. Montreal: La Patrie, 1935.

Fiction and drama

  • The Vine of Sibmah: A Relation of the Puritans. New York: Macmillan, 1906.
  • The land. 1914.
  • The last rising. 1930.
  • Company. 1936.
  • The new house. 1937.

External links

  • Sir Andrew Macphail at The Canadian Encyclopedia
    The Canadian Encyclopedia
    The Canadian Encyclopedia is a source of information on Canada. It is available online, at no cost. The Canadian Encyclopedia is available in both English and French and includes some 14,000 articles in each language on a wide variety of subjects including history, popular culture, events, people,...

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