George Ballingall ~ Military Surgeon and Medical Pioneer

George Ballingall – Military surgeon and Medical pioneer – was born near Banff in 1780. After Edinburgh University where he went on to work with John Barclay the anatomist, Ballingall became a surgeon in the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots – First Royals – (1806). During his army career, Ballingall saw service in Madras, India (his first posting), the capture of Java (1811) and in Paris during the post-Napoleonic Wars occupation of Paris (1815). After the army (he retired on half-pay in 1818), Ballingall opened a private practice in Edinburgh. Ballingall married in 1817 a woman from Perth – a distant relation.

By 1822, he was a lecturer in military surgery at Edinburgh University where the field of military surgery was being taught for the very first time. Very soon, Ballingall was appointed Regius Professor of Military Surgery, holding that post for three decades. He extended the training of military surgeons to encompass not only battlefield injuries but also the whole area of health related issues that affect an army including the design and cleaning of military barracks. Ballingall’s courses at Edinburgh were utilised by the imperialist East India Company as another arm in its arsenal utilised for extending the British Empire.

George Ballingall wrote Outlines of Military Surgery in 1833, which was reprinted four more times. Amongst his career awards/positions are included: consulting surgeon at the Royal Infirmary, Surgeon to the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Surgeon-Extraordinary to the King, Surgeon to the Queen in Scotland, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Fellow of the Royal Society of London, a knighthood (1830) and President of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh (1836). During the Crimean Wars, Ballingall had some involvement in the army’s medical treatment of its wounded. George Ballingall died on 4 December 1855 at his country home, Altamont, in Blairgowrie.

Other works by Ballingall include:

De Apoplexia Sanguinea – University of Edinburgh, 1819.

Case of hydrophobia – Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, 1818.

Two cases of dislocations of the thumb – Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, 1818.

Practical observations on fever, dysentery, and liver complaints, as they occur amongst European troops in India; with introductory remarks on the disadvantages of selecting boys for Indian military service – 1818.

Introductory lectures to a course of military surgery – 1834.

Observations on the site and construction of hospitals – 1851.