Fonds MG1081 - Gilbert Prout Girdwood Fonds

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Gilbert Prout Girdwood Fonds

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  • 1814-1915 (Creation)
    Girdwood, Gilbert Prout, 1832-1917

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36 cm of textual records

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Biographical history

Gilbert Girdwood, physician and chemist, was born in London and educated at University College and St. George's School of Medicine. He came to Canada in 1862 as assistant surgeon of the Grenadier Guards. In 1864 he retired from the army, and began to practise in Montréal as a surgeon to local regiments and staff member of the Montreal Dispensary, the Montreal General Hospital, and the Children's Hospital. Girdwood's scientific interests were catholic, but he was fundamentally a chemist. As lecturer, and later Professor of chemistry in McGill's Medical Faculty (1870-1903), he introduced practical chemistry into the programme of medical training. His major research interest was toxicology. While still in London, he worked with a chemist to produce the Rogers and Girdwood test for detecting strychnine and in Canada he frequently testified as medical-legal witness in poisoning cases. He was also consulted in forgery trials, and he was the first to use enlarged photographs and reagents to reveal counterfeits. He published a number of studies on stereoscopic photography. A pioneer in the medical use of X-rays, Girdwood consulted in this field for Royal Victoria Hospital, and was president of the Roentgen Society of America.

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The bulk of Girdwood's papers concern his work in forensic medicine. Other materials cover his research in photography, and his general medical and scientific interests. Girdwood's career as medical-legal consultant is documented by 24 cm of his notes and reports, together with some correspondence, on four poisoning trials: People vs Emma Davis (Malone, N.Y., 1881), Queen vs Provencher and Boisclair (Sorel, 1867), Queen vs Joseph Ruel (St. Hyacinthe, 1868), and Queen vs David Prevost and Damase Brunet (L'Orignal, 1881). There are also coroner's autopsy reports and notes for four cases; Girdwood's memoires of ten cases on which he served as consultant; Rogers and Girdwood's submission to the Home Office, London, on the strychnine test, together with letters to Lancet and the Times on the same subject; and notes on the counterfeiting of stamps (1893). His interest in medical photography is reflected in lists of X-rays taken by him (1898-1899) and reprints of three articles. His general scientific and medical activities are represented by a scrapbook of newsclippings on cholera (1854), a lecture on gold presented to the Natural History Society of Montréal (n.d.), essays on strychnine (1864) and water filtration (1869), a review of a textbook in physiology (1864) and some reprints, including convocation addresses to the Medical Faculty. Finally, there is a manuscript copy of an address to the graduating class of Applied Science in 1881 and a small scrapbook of printed articles by Girdwood's father, G.F. Girdwood, M.D.

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