S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Irvine, Dr Louis Godfrey (medical sciences)

Born: January 1868, Scotland, United Kingdom.
Died: 15 March 1946, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Louis Godfrey Irvine qualified as Bachelor of Medicine (MB) and Master of Surgery (CM) at the University of Edinburgh in 1892. A few years later he came to the South African Republic (Transvaal), where he was licensed to practice in 1896. During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) he served in South African military hospitals and published an account of 30 cases of gunshot wounds of the skull and brain in The Lancet (1902). Shortly after the war he was still (or again) in the territory, which was administered by Britain as the Transvaal Colony. At this time his qualifications included the degrees Master of Arts (MA) and Bachelor of Science (BSc), while his medical qualifications were sometimes listed as MD (rather than MB), though not in medical directories. Another of his early publications was "Notes on a case of cerebrospinal meningitis" (South African Medical Record, 1903-1904, Vol. 1, p. 104). However, his work related mainly to the health of mine labourers, particularly miners' phthisis and first aid in mining. In 1907 he was working for the Crown Reef Gold Mining Company, and he remained in Johannesburg for the rest of his career.

Shortly after the Anglo-Boer War Irvine was a member of the Committee of Medical Officers of Mines of the Witwatersrand. In June 1903 this committee published its Report to the Commissioner for Native Affairs... on the mortality amongst native mine labourers. A year later, at the second annual meeting of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Johannesburg, he presented a paper on "The bacteriological aspects of miners' phthisis". The paper was published in the association's Report (1904, pp. 221-236) and was later followed by a contribution titled "Miners' phthisis" in the Transvaal Medical Journal (1912/3, Vol. 8, pp. 30-39). With Dr Donal Macaulay* as co-author he sketched the background to the health problems faced by mine workers in a paper on "The life history of the native labourer", presented at the joint meeting of the British and South African Associations for the Advancement of Science in 1905 and included in the Addresses and papers... published after the meeting (Vol. 3, pp. 342-367). That same year he joined the Chemical, Metallurgical and Mining Society of South Africa and, as co-author with Dr Macaulay, contributed a paper on "Safety measures in mining" to the society's Journal (1905/6, Vol. 6, pp. 148-156). Years later, from 1926 or earlier, Irvine was chairman of the Miners' Phthisis Medical Bureau and with Dr Anthony Mavrogordato published a paper on "Miners phthisis on the Rand" in the same journal (1929, Vol. 30, pp. 163-168). This paper gave a good account of silicosis on the mines during the early days. His later work included a paper on the control of silicosis in South Africa in the British Medical Journal (1932), and a report on silicosis in the mines of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in 1943. Another of his papers, "Accidents from poisonous gases in mines", appeared in the Medical Journal of South Africa in 1915.

Irvine made significant contributions also to the literature on first aid. In 1913 he wrote First aid in mining (metalliferous mines)... (Johannesburg, 115p), which was published by the South African Red Cross Society. Revised editions appeared in 1915, 1916 and 1918, and an abridged version, Hints on first aid for miners (also in Afrikaans) in 1916. Later he wrote a more comprehensive work on the same topic, First aid and rescue work in mining (Johannesburg, 1921, 348p), which was also published by the South African Red Cross. It consisted of two parts, a general course in first aid, and first aid and rescue work in mining. A revised edition appeared in 1926.

Irvine was present at the 40th anniversary of the Chemical, Metallurgical and Mining Society of South Africa, held in Johannesburg in 1934, and was at some time elected an honorary life member. In 1929 he served as joint vice-president of Section I (Physiology) of the British Association for the Advancement of Science when its annual meeting was held in South Africa.

Irvine was married to Annie A. Irvine, born James, with whom he had two daughters. After her death in 1936 he married again.

List of sources:
Addresses and papers read at the joint meeting of the British and South African Associations for the Advancement of Science held in South Africa, 1905, Vol. 3. Johannesburg: SAAAS.

British Association for the Advancement of Science. Report of the ninety-seventh meeting, South Africa, 1929, pp. viii-ix, Sectional Officers.

Chemical, Metallurgical and Mining Society of South Africa. Journal, 1905/6, Vol. 6, paper by Macaulay and Irivine; 1934, Vol. 34(9), 40th anniversary; 1946, 46(11/12), pp. 233-234, Obituary.

Google scholar. http://scholar.google.co.za Publications by L.G. Irvine.

Malan, M. In quest of health: The South African Institute for Medical Research, 1912-1973. Johannesburg: Lowry, 1988.

Medical, dental and pharmacy directory of South Africa, 1926/7.

Medical, dental and pharmacy register for the Transvaal, 1907.

National Archives Repository (TAB), Source MHG, Vol. 0, Ref. 1417/46: death notice, Louis Godfrey Irvine.

South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Report, 1904, 1905/6, 1910.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979 (Vol. 1-4) and Cape Town: South African Library, 1991 (Vol. 5).

South African Medical Record, 1903-1904, Vol. 1.

Staats-almanak der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, 1898, pp. 86-93: Naamlijst van de geadmitteerde genees-, heel- en verloskundigen...

Transvaal Medical Journal, 1912/3, Vol. 8, paper by Irvine.

Watermeyer, G.A. & Hoffenberg, S.N. Witwatersrand mining practice (pp. 686 and 718). Johannesburg: Transvaal Chamber of Mines, 1932.

Compiled by: C. Plug