Andrew Malcolm – Physician and Public Health Reformer

Published by P&P on

Home » People » Forgotten Folk » Andrew Malcolm – Physician and Public Health Reformer


A.G. Malcolm - Physician and Public Health Reformer
A.G. Malcolm

Andrew George Malcolm was born in 1818. His father, of the same name, was a Presbyterian minister in Dunmurry and then Newry. His mother was Eleanor Hunter. Andrew was educated at Belfast Academical Institution and completed his medical training at Edinburgh, graduating in 1842.

By 1843 Andrew Malcolm had returned to his home town and was working as a medical attendant at the General Dispensary. He lived nearby at 29 York Street with his mother. His father had died of typhus while attending to his parishioners, when Andrew was only 5.

Career & medical interests

At the age of 28 Andrew was employed as a doctor in the General Hospital on Frederick Street, while he still kept his job at the Dispensary. Part of his role, as attending physician, was to teach students, he was soon known as an innovative medical instructor. He encouraged a ‘hands on’ approach with full student involvement in addition to clinical lectures and autopsy demonstrations. Malcolm has been described by his biographer, John S Logan as “a powerful and assiduous teacher”.

Andrew Malcolm believed in the importance of the microscopical examination of fluids and tissue. He wrote many articles on clinical and pathological correlations – this was before the study of bacteria. Malcolm wrote “If our profession is to advance much as a practical study, it can only be by elaborate, but ordinary intelligent observation at the bedside, going hand-in-hand with the results of pure scientific research”.

Impacts of the industrialisation of Belfast

Andrew Malcolm was very concerned about the social and medical implications of Belfast’s rapid industrialisation. The changes in conditions from cottage to factory and the effects on a workers mental and physical health. In 1854 he successfully gained the post of ‘certifying factory surgeon’.

At this time Belfast had 25 mills with over 11,000 employees. In particular Malcolm was worried about the damage dust and airborne fibres could do to a person’s lungs. He published the statistical Paper the ‘Influence of Factory Life on the Health of Operatives’ to emphasise his concerns.

Malcolm was ahead of his day in believing that mental health and well-being was of equal importance as physical condition. He believed that providing stimulation such as reading and recreation would lead to a healthier and happier workforce.

In 1846, with the backing of like-minded friends, he founded the Belfast Working Classes Association for the Promotion of General Improvement. He also produced a journal, The Belfast Peoples Magazine, to promote his ideas of self-improvement. In June 1846, he set up a Peoples News-Room, where subscribers could read newspapers and magazines. The following year he established a Peoples Circulatory Library. Both these were very popular and of immense value.

Belfast Medical Society

Andrew Malcolm was also an enthusiastic member of the Belfast Medical Society (now the Ulster Medical Society) , aiming to improve its resources and amenities. He was the first secretary of the Belfast Sanitary Committee and was determined to help improve working and living standards for Belfast’s poor. Malcolm was also involved in the newly formed Society for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Working Classes. He was especially concerned with the provision of public baths and wash-houses, as a first step in increasing hygiene in over-crowded houses. His work ‘The Sanitary State of Belfast’ and his Papers on ‘Asiatic Cholera in Belfast’ and on the dysentery epidemic in the north of Ireland, continued to highlight his fears.

The Sanitary State of Belfast - Book 1852
The Sanitary State of Belfast by A.G. Malcolm, M.D.

Medical Historian

Malcolm was also a keen medical historian. His most notable work is an account of the development of the Belfast General Hospital published in 1851. It covers the foundation of the Belfast Dispensary in 1792 until 1850. This covers the Famine years and is a valuable resource to all those wishing to understand the effects on the local populace of the Famine and how the authorities endeavoured to cope with the great calamity. The book also illustrates the author’s innate kindness and affectionate nature as well as his practical philanthropy and admiral moral character.

In 1854 Andrew Malcolm had married Maria Glenny Home in the First Belfast (Non-Subscribing) Presbyterian Church. Their son, also Andrew George, was born in Dublin on 31st August 1856. Malcolm himself was in poor health, suffering from rheumatic valvular heart disease. Sadly he died
only a couple of weeks later on 19th September, aged 38. Tragically his baby son died at 5 months old from meningitis. Andrew Malcolm’s funeral was on 22nd September from his home on York Street. He is buried in Dunmurry, where his father had been minister.

His colleague, Professor Ferguson described Andrew Malcolm “I think he may be put before you, my young friends, as a good specimen of the working man of our profession, well worthy of your imitation”.

Do you want to see all new BelfastEntries Posts?
If you like our Facebook posts and would like to see more then please add yourself as a friend to our PandP profile screen or follow our BelfastEntries page. We cannot add posts to all groups and the only way to be sure of receiving notifications of new posts is to follow our page. You will see that the Belfast Entries page has a 5 star rating from readers

If you enjoyed this article please consider a small donation

Belfast Entries is a husband & wife hobby website featuring articles on our shared history, memories and entertaining stories of our past. To help us meet rising website hosting costs please click the coffee cup below to learn how to make a small donation. Please note that every contribution is valued and that we will not contact you directly in order to respect your privacy.

Buy Us a Coffee
Buy Us a Coffee

Donations this month 2 😀

Thank you Helen

Thank you Jackie

We had 3 donations last month

Help Us Find New Readers

If you like our posts please help us to grow our readership by sharing any posts that you like using the social media sharing icons shown with each post.

What are others reading now?

Galboly cottage view

Galboly – The County Antrim Village Lost in Time

By P&P / 30 September 2021 / 4 Comments
Mill chimney - a common sight in Belfast

Ardoyne – The Story of a Village

By P&P / 13 November 2021 / 2 Comments
Bodies Illustration at the scene Belfast Telegraph 13th March 1890

Nora’s Grave 1890 – Love & Death

By P&P / 19 March 2022 / 0 Comments
Belfast Long Bridge crossed the River Lagan between 1688 and 1841

Unusual Laws in Old Belfast 1613 – 1816

By P&P / 11 March 2022 / 0 Comments
Hy Brasil Appears (AI image © Bing Image Creator)

Hy Brasil – The True Story of a Mythical Island

By P&P / 9 September 2022 / 0 Comments

Cost of Living Crisis

Given the current cost of living crisis that will impact so many in coming months we have added a page signposting organisations that may be able to offer support. We have no relationship with these organisations and cannot offer financial advice but we hope that some of the links may prove useful.

Ancestry Antrim Arthur Chichester artist Belfast Belfast Entries Belfast Family belfast roots Carrickfergus Castle Cemetery Church Clifton House County Antrim County Down Department Store Donegal education. family tree Famous Folk Forgotten folk Genealogy Ghost graveyard Historical places History Hotel Ireland Irish Census Records Irish Family Irish genealogy irish roots Mary Ann McCracken Operation Overlord Otto Jaffe Outlaw People Philanthropist Places to see Poor House Sailortown St Patrick Titanic Tourism United Irishmen

Belfast Entries posts & photos are our intellectual property and copyrighted to us. Where we use photos that do not belong to us, it is because we believe them to be in the public domain or shared under a Creative Commons licence with appropriate attribution. None of our content or images can be used without our consent. Note that a link to our Copyright & Takedown notice is included in the website footer on all pages.


We are a Belfast couple adding information on Belfast and the surrounding counties. Over coming months we will add a range of posts covering the people, places, products and stories that interest us and will hopefully be of interest to you. Over time we hope to build up information of use to locals & visitors alike and welcome your feedback on subjects of interest or stories that might be interest to the wider audience. Let us know what you think.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Would you like notifications of new Belfast Entries posts? OK No thanks