James Mackenzie


Sir James Mackenzie (1853-1925) was a Scottish cardiologist and General Practitioner.

Mackenzie was a pioneer in the study of cardiac arrhythmias known as the father of British cardiology.

Developed the Mackenzie polygraph, which he developed to detect arrhythmias, which inadvertently laid basis for the modern day ‘lie-detector’.

A longstanding critic of traditional Medical education and a believer that clinical research was best practiced in the community within the field of General Practice.

  • Born on April 12, 1853 in Scone near Perth, Scotland.
  • Attended Perth Academy until the age of 15, before leaving to be an apprentice to a chemist in Perth.
  • At 21 started his medical studies at The University of Edinburgh.
  • Graduating in 1878, worked initially at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary before entering General Practice in Burnley.
  • Worked in General Practice in Burnley between 1879 and 1902, developing a keen research interest in heart failure.
  • 1892 published his work which included his clinical polygraph, in a paper entitled ‘The Study of the Pulse, Arterial, Venous and Hepatic and the Movements of the Heart’
  • Moved to London in 1907 where he practiced as a cardiologist, becoming head of the cardiac department at the Mount Vernon hospital for Diseases of the Chest in 1913.
  • 1915 – Knighted by King George V.
  • Moved to St Andrews where he refocused his work on general practice, establishing the ‘James Mackenzie Institute for Clinical Research’ at St Andrews University.
  • Died 26 January 1925, ironically of ischaemic heart disease

Major Publications

Notable Quotables

I was not long engaged in my new sphere when I realized that I was unable to recognize the ailments in the great majority of my patients…For some years I went blundering on, gradually falling into a routine, i.e. giving some drug that seemed to act favourably on the patient, till I became dissatisfied with my work and resolved to try and improve my knowledge by more careful observation



Eponymous terms


the person behind the name

Dr Vhairi McAtear LITFL Author

MBChB (Hons), BMedSci, University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Currently working in Emergency Medicine in Perth, Australia. Lover of the outdoors and all things running, cycling and hiking. Varied interests including acute medicine and clinical oncology.

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.