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Ian MacGillivray: gynaecologist and obstetrician with expertise in twin pregnancies

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 17 August 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n2036
  1. John Illman
  1. London, UK
  1. john{at}


As young boy, Ian MacGillivray, the son of a carpenter, jumped over a fence and broke his arm. Impressed by the doctor who treated him, he went on to win a Carnegie scholarship to read medicine at Glasgow. He later wryly recalled that he had had no previous desire to “save all the suffering in the world” and little idea about what being a doctor involved.

But after starting out as a £100 a year houseman in Falkirk, MacGillivray became globally acclaimed for his study of eclampsia in mothers expecting twins. In 1976 he became president of the International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy and, four years later, president of the International Society for Twin Studies.

Early life

Where did his early ambitions lie? As a 14 year old he drove his father’s Rover up and down the garage, “got good at changing gears,” and contemplated a career in road surveying or civil engineering—activities he associated with cars.

By this time he had been smoking for five years—not a good omen for a future doctor. Each week he had six pence pocket money: two for sweets and four for a best seat at the cinema. He opted for a two pence seat and two pence for five Woodbine cigarettes. After smoking 50 cigarettes a day …

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