George Allison Allan was born in Glasgow, the son of George S. Allan, a bookseller, and Janet (Buchanan) Allan. From Hutcheson’s Grammar School he went into business, and so started his medical studies much later than was usual, but he had a very brilliant career at the University of Glasgow. After winning many bursaries, prizes and medals he graduated M.B., Ch.B, with honours and with the Brunton memorial prize in 1905 as the most distinguished graduate of his year.
Throughout his medical career he served the Western Infirmary of Glasgow, passing through all grades of appointment from resident house physician upwards. He assisted James Finlayson, Lindsay Steven, Barclay Ness and T. K. Monro, with whom he was associated from 1913 until 1929 when he obtained his own wards. With Professor T. K. Monro he was senior lecturer in the practice of medicine at the University of Glasgow. He was the first physician to take an electrocardiogram in the Western Infirmary, where he founded the cardiographic department. In addition, he was consultant physician to the Kilmarnock Infirmary and to the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, which he visited with meticulous regularity. His energies also enabled him to act as consultant physician at the Maternity Hospital, Bellshill, the Ralston Hospital, Paisley, the Ayr County Hospital and the Glasgow Eye Infirmary.
It is interesting to reflect that until 1920 Allan combined his academic, hospital and university work with general practice and it was only after that year that he was free to follow his ambition in consultant medicine. His kindness and integrity won him a great following amongst his colleagues who were quick to appreciate the unique qualities of his brilliant mind. He soon became a very busy consultant and a recognised leader in cardiology in the west of Scotland.
In spite of the pressure of his professional life, he was for many years joint editor of the Glasgow Medical Journal. He acted as local secretary for the Glasgow meeting of the British Medical Association in 1922 under the presidency of Sir William Macewen— there was a great mutual regard between the two men. He was president of the Glasgow and West of Scotland branch of the British Medical Association in 1925/6 and he served on a great many B.M.A, committees, including the council, from 1922 until 1932. He took pride in the honorary membership of the Royal Medico-Chirurgical Society. George Allan served on the council of the Association of Physicians, but the society which gave him greatest pleasure was the British Cardiac Society. He derived great satisfaction from having been one of the early members of the original Cardiac Club.
No less than forty-seven papers and addresses, twelve of them on rheumatic heart disease, testify to George Allan’s industry. Those who heard him never forgot the eager zest of his teaching, and those who were privileged to see him at work, whether at the bedside or on a committee, realised that they were in the presence of a mind of unique clarity and rapier-like alertness and decision. Yet the man was modest almost to a fault, shy, retiring and devoted to the simple pleasures of home life. While he enjoyed photography and had a mild interest in fishing, his professional work absorbed all his energies.
His character was one of inflexible honesty and his assistants experienced his devastating ability to brush aside unessentials; yet this man of brilliant intellect was also one of unfailing kindness, most considerate of his colleagues, and extremely gentle with his patients. In 1920 he married Jenny Wyllie Scotland. They had two daughters and one son, presumed killed in action as a captain in the R.A.M.C, while a prisoner of the Japanese in 1944.
Richard R Trail
[Brit.med.J., 1950, 2, 1121; Glasg. med. J., 1950, 31, 422-3; Lancet, 1950, 2, 543-4.]