Dr. Harry Goodsir Mackid, 1858-1916

Calgary, c 1910. Source: University of Alberta Peel's Prairie Postcards series

Pioneering Calgary physician Dr. Harry Goodsir Mackid was a leader in communicable disease control and a partner in Calgary’s first group medical practice.


"What is the value of the West to medicine? ... The West thinks boldly and acts boldly, by necessity first, then by conviction, and ultimately by habit" (Dr. H.G. Mackid, 1912).

Dr. H.G. Mackid came west from Ontario in 1889 as Calgary’s fifth physician and surgeon. He and Dr. J.D. Lafferty formed the first group practice in Calgary. The practice began the Mackid Clinic, which lasted almost 75 years.Calgary CPR station, c 1910. Source: University of Alberta, Peel's Prairie Postcards series

In 1890, the practice assumed the CPR employee medical contract for the mainline from Golden to Regina. The contract was extended to include medical care for railway crews during the construction of the Calgary to Edmonton railway (1890-92).

Dr. Mackid and then later his son Dr. L.S. Mackid kept the CPR contract for 61 years.

In 1907, he was called to see Sir Ernest Waterloo, the Legal Advisor to the CPR in England. Sir Ernest had what seemed to be acute appendicitis but informed Dr. Mackid that “no colonial will operate on me.” Dr. Mackid then pulled out a tape measure and began measuring the patient.

When asked why, Dr. Mackid said that he needed to know the size of Sir Ernest’s coffin. The surgery came just in time – the appendix burst in Dr. Mackid’s hands when he removed it.

Dr. Mackid, together with other physicians, helped to lead the movement to build Calgary’s first hospitals. He and his colleague Dr. Lindsay formed the first medical staff at the Calgary Cottage Hospital (a converted house with eight to 12 beds) in 1890. It was only the second approved hospital in the NWT.

Three months later, in January 1891, Dr. Mackid admitted the first patient to the Grey Nuns Holy Cross hospital.

In 1892 he performed the first abdominal operation in Calgary (removing several bullet fragments) and in the same year confirmed Dr. Henry George’s suspicion of the first case of smallpox epidemic, brought by passengers on the CPR. He was later instrumental in initiating the first isolation unit in Calgary for patients with smallpox.

Calgary General Hospital, 1920. Source: University of Alberta Peel's Prairie Postcards seriesHe was instrumental in saving the financially challenged new Calgary General Hospital in 1908, by implementing a 0.50¢ per month charge for all CPR employees for medical and hospital care. That same year he provided the General Hospital with its first x-ray unit.

In 1911, 300 cases of typhoid fever, caused by dumping effluent or sewage directly into the Bow River, were diagnosed in Calgary. Dr. Mackid and his son initiated a mass inoculation campaign, immunizing thousands in the city, which thwarted a repeat typhoid outbreak.

Mackid became the third NWT medical president in 1893, and in 1911, became the first Canadian Medical Association President from Alberta. During his year-long presidency, the CMA membership increased by 33%, and 350 physicians attended the Edmonton AGM.

Diagnosed with diabetes in 1910, he was pulled out of retirement by his son’s enlistment during World War I. He died in 1916, just a year before Dr. Collip (who went on to isolate therapeutically effective insulin) arrived in Alberta.

Get the whole story!

Read the full profile of Dr. Mackid in Dr. Robert Lampard's "Alberta's Medical History"
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