MacDonald, Alexander Edward

Lieutenant Colonel A. E. MacDonald, MC, ED
Lieutenant Colonel A. E. MacDonald, MC, ED

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Edward MacDonald, MC, ED was born in Hepworth, Ontario, in 1892,  son of Angus MacDonald and Rosella Alice Smith. He was a medical student in Toronto at the beginning of WWI. MacDonald went to Europe before completing his training and worked in a casualty clearing station. He returned to Toronto to complete his medical degree and then was positioned in France as Lieutenant in the Medical Corps in 1916. He was the first medical officer to cross the German border and reach the Rhine. MacDonald was awarded a military cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace for his efforts.born August 13, 1892.

MacDonald returned to Toronto in 1919 and worked in pathology. After two years in British Honduras working as a medical officer during a yellow fever epidemic, MacDonald decided to pursue ophthalmology training. He trained in Boston and then in London, England, under Sir John Herbert Parsons (1868-1957) and Sir William Lister (1868-1944). He then completed fellowship training in Graz with Maximillian Salzmann (1862-1954) and Alfred Vogt (1879-1943) in Zurich.

MacDonald returned to Toronto in 1925 to work at the Toronto General Hospital. He petitioned for $150 in funding and space to set up an ophthalmic pathology laboratory.

During WWII MacDonald was an ophthalmology consultant to the Royal Canadian Navy and helped Wright to set up the postgraduate ophthalmic training program for the military.

MacDonald was the first chairman of the ophthalmic committee of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and helped to established fellowship examinations. After WWII he became president of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society.

In 1967, MacDonald was awarded the Canadian Centennial Medal for having provided valuable service to Canada.

MacDonald was an authority in cartography. As a student in Paris he purchased a 16th century map of the Great Lakes, the first of a collection depicting the mapping of Eastern North America. In 1958 the Royal Ontario Museum held an exhibition of early cartography entitled “Up North – The Discovery and Mapping of the Canadian Arctic” from MacDonald’s private collection.

MacDonald died in 1976 and his most significant legacy is his bequest to the Department of Ophthalmology of payments his estate received from the sale of his cartography collection to the Public Archive in Ottawa in 1981. The A.E. MacDonald Ophthalmic Library was named in his honour. The residue of his estate continues to support the ophthalmic library and ophthalmic research at the University of Toronto.

Service Record

  • Cadet Captain at Brantford Collegiate Institute (#46 Army Cadet Corps)
  • 1908 – Enlisted as a signaller in the Dufferin Rifles of Canada
  • 1910 – Appointed Provisional Lieutenant in Dufferin Rifles
  • 1914 – Transferred to the 54th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery
  • Enlisted for active service the No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station, CEF with rank of Sergeant and proceeded overseas with that unit in April 1915
  • September 1915 – Returned to Canada in accordance with General Order returning all final year medical students to complete their graduation
  • 1916 – Appointed Lieutenant in the Canadian Army Medical Corps, CEF attached to Base Hosepital, Toronto
  • 1916 – Proceeded overseas with draft
  • 1917 – Proceeded to France and posted to No. 1 Field Ambulance
  • 2 Oct 1917 [per War Diary] – Appointed Medical Officer, 3rd Battalion, remaining with that unit until it returned to Belgium after occupation of Germany, 1918-1919
  • 1919 – Served on ADMS staff, Toronto
  • Awarded Military Cross for service with the 3rd Battalion at Drocurt-Queant line.
  • 1920 – Served in the Colonial Service in British Honduras
  • December 10, 1924 – Attached to the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada as Medical Officer (until WWII?)
  • Awarded Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal and Officers Decoration
  • October 7, 1937 – Qualified rank of Lieutenant Colonel
  • 1939 – Awarded Canadian Efficiency Decoration, GO 229

With information from The University of Toronto website.

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