Alexander Greig Anderson was born on March 31st, 1885, the son of James Anderson, Mains of Annochie, Auchnagatt, Aberdeenshire, and Margaret (Cruikshank) Anderson. Like Sir Arthur Keith, Professor Alexander Low and Sir David Ferrier he came of farming stock in Aberdeenshire. He was educated at Robert Gordon’s College, at the University of Aberdeen, in Dublin and in Berlin. He joined the R.A.M.C, in 1915, served at the Cambridge Hospital in Aldershot, and then went overseas with the 43rd and 52nd General Hospitals to Salonika. He was mentioned in dispatches for his work as officer-in-charge of medical divisions of these hospitals.
At the end of the war he was appointed assistant physician at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, in a close departmental association with Sir Ashley Mackintosh; with him he continued the neurological specialty which had characterised the Aberdeen school. ‘A. G.’ as he then became known, threw himself into the teaching of the large number of medical students then attending the Hospital, most of whom had returned from overseas service in H.M. Forces. This work he particularly enjoyed, and he looked back to those days as amongst the most rewarding of his life. Many of his old students and residents recollected with pleasure his Sunday evening ‘at homes’ when discussion ranged freely over many things, and he was particularly proud of an inscribed silver tray presented by them on his retirement.
In 1932 he became full physician to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with charge of wards in the old hospital. Planning was then in progress for the new hospital at Foresterhill and he took a heavy share in the work entailed. In the same year he became Honorary Physician to H.M.’s Household in Scotland and held this office until 1955.
Among many other duties and offices he was physician to Morningfield Hospital, honorary consulting physician to the Scottish Command during the Second World War, a member of the business committee of the General Council of the University, a commissioner for the University of St. Andrews, a member of the court of the University of Aberdeen, and chairman of the Old People’s Welfare Council. He did much valuable work on the university court and a tribute was paid to him by the Governor when he retired in 1960, when he said that Sir Alexander had been an assessor for twenty years and that he had so responded to all calls upon him ‘as to merit his place in the distinguished roll of alumni who had dedicated their talents to the welfare of their Alma Mater’.
His great interest in later years was the provision of houses and homes for old people. In his work he was associated on a national basis with Sir Rock Carling. In the local sphere he succeeded in collecting ample funds to establish five well-run homes for the aged; he was closely interested in the detailed plans of a sixth, and had been largely instrumental in the collection of some £50,000 for it.
Honours came to him: LL.D, in 1949, C.V.O, in 1951, deputy lieutenant of the city of Aberdeen in 1952, K.C.V.O, in 1956. His portrait in etching by Malcolm Osborne was presented by subscription from his old students and colleagues at a further ceremony in the Art Gallery in 1950. Anderson was recognised as a leader in medical thought, a guide in the development of professional affairs, and the doyen in all matters affecting the conduct of professional life in the city.
He was a good churchman, was widely read, and enjoyed conversation, travel and company. He was a great student of Shakespeare and a bibliophile. He bequeathed his collection of books intact to King’s College, Aberdeen, as an example of the library of a physician of the early twentieth century. He never married.
Richard R Trail
[Aberd. Univ. Rev., 1961, 39, 119-22, 205-06 (p); Brit.med.J., 1961, 1, 1912-13 (p); Lancet, 1961, 1, 1234-5 (p); Press and Journal, Aberdeen, 22 May 1961; Times, 22May 1961.]