Archibald Donald was born in Edinburgh, and was educated at Edinburgh University. He worked at the Royal Maternity Hospital in Edinburgh before coming to St Mary's Hospital Manchester in 1885 as house surgeon and resident obstetrical surgeon. Despite his relative youth, Donald had very great responsibilities in this post, attending several thousand cases a year. In 1888 he was elected to the honorary staff at St Mary's in succession to Cullingworth. In 1888 he began his work on prolapsed uteri, for which he would be best known. In 1895 he was appointed honorary gynaecological physician at MRI
Donald wrote a standard work for students and nurses, An introduction to midwifery. In 1912 he succeeded William Sinclair as professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Manchester; in 1920 a chair of clinical obstetrics and gynaecology was created for him. In the First World War he was a surgeon at the Second Western General Hospital. Donald held office in a number of professional bodies including presidency of the obstetrical section of the Royal Society of Medicine and president of the North of England Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society, president of the Manchester Medical Society and the Manchester Pathological Society.