A commemorative place plaque for surgical innovator Sir Alexander Ogston (1844-1929) has been unveiled at the site of Ogston’s home on Union Street in Aberdeen. Sir Alexander Ogston was a highly-regarded orator and teacher, distinguished military surgeon and, most famously, discoverer of the Staphylococcus bacterium in 1881, following research in a laboratory in the garden of his house at 252 Union Street. Staphylococcus causes surgical and skin infections, respiratory disease and food poisoning. It remains one of the top five causes of hospital-acquired infection.
Aberdeen City Council's commemorative plaques celebrate significant individuals who have lived or worked in Aberdeen and have made outstanding achievements in their field, or buildings or events of historic significance. The plaque relating to Sir Alexander Ogston has been sponsored by the Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society. It is a black rectangular place plaque with gold writing (rather than a round people plaque) has been installed at 252 Union Street as the original property was demolished in the 1930s. The plaque reads:
Sir Alexander Ogston (1844-1929) Professor of Surgery, surgical innovator and distinguished military surgeon lived in a house on this site from 1870 to 1929. In 1881 Ogston discovered the Staphylococcus organism in a laboratory he constructed in his garden.
Ogston is locally, nationally and internationally significant:
- Locally - clinical service to local public and medical teacher at the University of Aberdeen.
- Nationally - served in three war campaigns and was instrumental in establishment of Royal Army Medical Corps.
- Internationally - discoverer of the Staphylococcus organism, an almost universal cause of postoperative infection at the time, and the only British researcher recognised for the discovery of a major pathogenic organism at the dawning of understanding of medical microbiology.
Ogston is featured in the ‘World Life Savers’ display at Provost Skene’s House, Aberdeen’s newest attraction which celebrates the pioneering people of Aberdeen and the North-East of Scotland who have not only shaped the city, but who have also helped transform the world.
The commemorative Place plaque for Ogston was approved by Aberdeen City Council’s City Growth and Resources committee in 2019 but was not erected immediately due to work on the building, and thereafter by coronavirus restrictions.
The Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Councillor David Cameron, said: “For over 500 years teaching, learning and discovery have flourished in Aberdeen. The lives and careers of medical pioneers such as Sir Alexander Ogston testify to the city’s emphasis on education. The plaque is welcome recognition for Sir Alexander Ogston’s revolutionary research and his major breakthrough in the prevention and control of infection, which has saved countless lives around the world.”
Speaking during a recent visit to Aberdeen from his home in Canada, Ogston’s great-grandson Andy Philpot, said: “A treasure trove of Sir Alexander’s, journals, writings sketches and photographs came to light in about 2005. He was obviously a central character in our branch of the Ogston family. Dr Tom Reid, of the Medico-Chirurgical Society, made me aware of the lasting importance and fame of Sir Alexander in the medical field, and about two years ago a group of us great-grandchildren contacted Dr David Rennie of the University of Aberdeen, who is now writing the first biography of Sir Alexander Ogston. We are delighted that this plaque has been erected in honour of our great-grandfather.”
Mr Pragnesh Bhatt, President, Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society, said: “Sir Alexander Ogston’s discovery of Staphylococcus made a significant impact on the practice of medical science in general and surgical sciences in particular. The Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society is proud to have played a part in securing this recognition for Ogston’s work. The Society continues to care for a collection of portraits, artefacts and documents which together form a unique record of local, national and international medical developments, as well as promoting historical and epidemiological research.”
About the commemorative plaques programme
Aberdeen City Council's commemorative plaques celebrate significant individuals who have lived or worked in Aberdeen. Over 100 plaques recognise the contribution of these individuals to all walks of life. From the 19th century, plaques have been erected in Aberdeen commemorating people and places which have shaped the city, Scotland or beyond – people who have made outstanding achievements in their field, or buildings or events of historic significance. The City Council has overseen the erection of these plaques since 1978 when it first developed a scheme. Recent plaques include Caroline Phillips (1874-1956), suffragette, journalist and honorary secretary of the Women's Social and Political Union, Aberdeen Branch; and GS McLennan (1883-1929), a Champion Piper and noted composer of pipe music. Anyone can nominate a person for a commemorative plaque. Before submitting an application please get in touch with email@example.com
Further guidance on the criteria, process and costs can be found at https://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/AAGM/local-history/commemorative-plaques
About the Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society
Established over 200 years ago, Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society promotes education, fellowship and heritage amongst medical practitioners in North-East Scotland and so has a long-standing interest in the preservation and promotion of local medical history.
About Provost Skene’s House
Provost Skene’s House celebrates the pioneering people of Aberdeen and the North-East of Scotland who have shaped the city and transformed the world. Dating from 1545, the oldest surviving town house in Aberdeen is home to new interactive displays sharing the stories, discoveries and achievements of over 100 remarkable individuals: innovators, scientists, life savers, writers, sporting champions and stars of stage and screen.
Open 7 days a week, admission free, www.aagm.co.uk
The material on display at Provost Skene’s House relating to Sir Alexander Ogston is on loan from University of Aberdeen Museums & Special Collections. Find out more at https://emuseum.aberdeencity.gov.uk/people/17236/sir-alexander-ogston/objects