Dr James W. Bruce Douglas

James Spence Medallist

Year James Spence Medal awarded: 1984

Dr Douglas studied at Magdalen College, Oxford and continued to work in the Departments of Anatomy and Physiology in Oxford, and later served as a Scientific Officer in the Ministry of Social Security. He also was appointed as Senior Lecturer and Reader in Social Medicine and Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, and Director of the Medical Research Council on Environmental Factors in Mental and Physical Illness at the London School of Economics.

Arguably his life’s work, in 1945 he was appointed the Director of the Maternity Survey of the Joint Committee of the Royal College and founded the National Survey of Health and Development. The survey identified all babies born in a week in March 1946 and was ground-breaking in raising the standards and expanding maternity services in Great Britain. He continued to follow a sample of the babies born during the survey week, leading to numerous publications, including the impacts of social class and consequences of separation of mother and child.

His work is of huge importance to paediatrics as well as to the social history of Great Britain in the 20th Century.