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Neil MacVicar
1871 to 1949
United Free Church of Scotland
Malawi / South Africa


Neil MacVicar was a medical missionary in southern Africa. He graduated in medicine from Edinburgh University in 1893, winning the medal for the outstanding student of the year. He had been deeply influence by D. C. R. Scott and went to join him as medical officer at the Church of Scotland Mission, Blantyre, Malawi. There he was a close ally of Scott and succeeded him as editor of the periodical Life and Work in British Central Africa after Scott resigned in 1898. But in 1901 MacVicar also resigned, unable to work any longer with Alexander Hetherwick, Scott's successor as head of the mission.

James Stewart of Lovedale persuaded the United Free Church of Scotland to appoint MacVicar as head of the new hospital at Lovedale in Cape Colony. MacVicar threw himself wholeheartedly into the new challenge, as doctor, educator, administrator, and evangelist. For 20 years he trained African women as nurses to be the official state registration standards before this was available to them anywhere else in southern Africa. He carried out two brilliant pieces of research on medical problems of great importance to society: tuberculosis among Africans, urban and rural; and scurvy among miners. His reports led to major governmental reforms in public health and to drastic changes in diet and accommodation in the vast mining hostels. He was a brilliant popular writer of evangelistic and public health pamphlets. He died in South Africa.

Andrew C. Ross


Bibliography:

Life and Work in British Central Africa was not only edited by MacVicar but also largely written by him during the years 1899 to 1901. Many articles by him also appear in The South African Outlook in issues published between 1922 and 1942. His biography, by R. H. W. Shepherd is A South African Medical Pioneer (1952).


This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.