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JB ("Jim") Macalpine

First to describe occupational bladder cancer in the UK

James Barlow Macalpine was born on 11th February 1882 in Accrington, the son of the wealthy colliery owner Sir George Macalpine. He was schooled at Mill Hill and then qualified in medicine from Manchester in 1907. He was House Surgeon at Manchester Royal Infirmary and spent some time at the London Hospital and then in Vienna. He qualified as FRCS in 1910.


During the First World War he served with the RAMC. After the war, in 1919, he took up surgical appointments in Manchester including at the Salford Royal Hospital where he established and was in charge of the genito-urinary department.

In 1927, he published "Cystoscopy and Urography", the second British book on cystoscopy (the first being Hurry Fenwick’s "Electrical Illumination of the Bladder and Urethra" in 1888). It was very popular, ran to three editions and was translated into Italian.

He described the first series of bladder tumours attributable to dye manufacture in England, with THE Wignall, in 1929.

Macalpine was an honorary lecturer in urology at the University of Manchester and Consultant Urological Surgeon to Christie Hospital Manchester and the Holt Radium Institute. He was one of the members of the original Urological Club and a founder member of the Urology Section of the Royal Society of Medicine and of the British Association of Urological Surgeons. He was President of the Section of Urology of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1934 and the first recipient of the St Peter's Medal in 1949. MacAlpine was also Hunterian Professor of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1947 when he lectured on bladder tumours.

Macalpine (known as JB or Jim to his friends) had a great sense of humour and, being a man of means, was able to devote all his time and energy to urology rather than having to build a private practice. As a young man he was a good full back and sprinter, and later enjoyed golf, yachting, billiards and playing the piano. Sadly, the onset of bilateral Dupuytren's contractures brought his operating, and some of his hobbies, to a premature halt. He retired in 1945 to the Lake District, and his position at Salford was filled by Dennis Poole-Wilson.

He died at his home (Michael's Nook, Grasmere, Westmoreland) on 17 March 1960
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The Museum has been unable to source a contemporary image of Jim MacAlpine -
the image used on this page is said to be of him but we have no way of verifying this.
If you do have access to a verified image of Macalpine, please email the website editor

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