Obituary: Dr Mary Macdonald, 90

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A PATHOLOGIST who played a key role in laying the groundwork for the UK’s first kidney transplant has died in the Capital at the age of 90.

Dr Mary Macdonald was born in Perth on March 14, 1923, as one of three children to draper Alexander and his linen mill worker wife, also named Mary.

Medicine became something of a family business, with both of Dr Macdonald’s brothers following similar career paths.

She was schooled at Perth Academy – where she excelled not just academically, but also on the athletics track as a sprinter – before studying medicine at Edinburgh University, from where she graduated in 1945 before spending a year as a house doctor at the Eastern General Hospital and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Within a year of graduating, she was already teaching medicine to the next batch of students in her role as assistant lecturer in Edinburgh’s pathology department.

Dr Macdonald was inducted into the Royal College of Physicians in 1948 – the same year she married her husband, Dr James Robson.

After each being honoured with a fellowship at Harvard University, the couple began to focus on kidney disease and worked together to establish Edinburgh’s renal biopsy service.

The pair played a key role in early Medical Research Council trials of treatment for kidney conditions – which laid the groundwork for the UK’s first kidney transplant, which took place in Edinburgh in 1960.

Dr Macdonald kept busy away from work as she brought up her sons, Michael and Christopher.

She would often attend Hearts and Hibs football matches with them, and took the pair to see the Rolling Stones and the Beatles when the bands visited the Capital. In the mid-1970s, Dr Macdonald was named a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists and became a reader in the pathology department at Edinburgh University. She was also an honorary consultant with the Lothian Health Board.

Among her key interests outside of medicine were politics and religion. She was a member of the Labour Party and of the Methodist Church.

Dr Macdonald led a Sunday School class at Central Hall in Edinburgh and also sang in church choirs for more than 70 years – still belting out tunes well into her 80s.

She was so highly regarded that one of her choirmasters wrote a piece especially in her honour.

She was also fascinated by astronomy – reading widely on the subject and becoming an avid watcher of the BBC’s Stragazing Live programme.

Dr Macdonald died in Edinburgh on March 12 at the age of 90.

She is survived by her sons, her brother Sandy, grandchildren David and Nicola, and her great-granddaughter Lucie.

Her husband, Dr Robson, died in 2010.