A. W. Barclay was born at Dysart, Fife, the son of Capt. John Barclay, R.N., who had served under Nelson. He was sent to the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and entered the University as a medical student in 1834. He interrupted his studies there to spend the winter of 1836-37 at Westminster Hospital. After qualifying in 1838, he passed a year at Berlin and then visited Italy, Switzerland, and France. On his return, instead of embarking on a medical career at once, he enrolled afresh as a student at Caius College, Cambridge, in 1842. Winning many College prizes, including one for moral philosophy, he graduated as M.B. in 1847 and was made medical registrar of St. George’s Hospital, where he became subsequently assistant physician, full physician and consulting physician, and lectured on materia medica and the principles and practice of physic. At the Royal College of Physicians, he was appointed Lumleian Lecturer (1864), Censor, Harveian Orator (1881), and finally, in recognition of his administrative ability, Treasurer (1883). In 1881 he was president of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society.
Barclay was not a prolific writer, but utilised his wide clinical experience to compile statistical reports on heart disease in 1848 and 1852. His chief work was his Manual of Medical Diagnosis, published first in 1851, which reached a third edition in 1870. After becoming Chelsea’s first medical officer of health, in 1855, he published The Progress of Preventive Medicine and Sanitary Measures in 1856. He was also examiner for the Sanitary Science Certificates awarded by Cambridge. He died at Stevenage.
G H Brown
[Lancet, 1884; B.M.J., 1884; D.N.B., iii, 161; Biog.Hist.of Caius College, ii, 259]