Papers of: Cantlie, Sir James (1851-1926)

Scope and Content

MSS.1456-1499 comprise chiefly drafts of essays and papers by Cantlie, spanning his entire career but with the bulk (MSS.1461-1486) dating from his years in Hong Kong. The subject is generally tropical medicine; diseases discussed include leprosy, dropsy, kala-azar, beri-beri, cholera and malaria, with particular emphasis upon leprosy. Worth individual notice are MSS.1456, in which Cantlie describes a case of blood poisoning that he acquired in the dissecting room at Charing Cross Hospital; MS.1459, commemorating the military surgeon Paul Bennett Conolly (died at Khartoum on the Gordon Relief Expedition of 1885); 1461, 1466 and 1463, two diaries and a cashbook respectively to do with his Hong Kong medical practice; 1469, a fragment of a register of patients in the Hong Kong Hospital; 1480-1481, casebooks compiled in Hong Kong; 1489, a dummy copy of the first edition of the Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene , founded by Cantlie; and 1499, a collection of questionnaire responses relating to the life history of Eurasian "half-castes" in which Cantlie is one of many respondents drawn from the western fringes of the Pacific (China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand). MSS.6931-6941 contain correspondence, personal and travel papers, medical notes, printed material (including much material relating to papers published in the Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene ), illustrative material and certificates, the last also including items relating to other members of Cantlie's family.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir James Cantlie was born in 1851 in Banffshire. He took his first degree at Aberdeen University and carried out his clinical training at Charing Cross Hospital, London. In 1877 he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and Assistant Surgeon to Charing Cross Hospital; in 1886 he became Surgeon at Charing Cross. In 1888 he resigned to take up a position as Dean of the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese (where the future Chinese leader Sun Yat Sen was one of his pupils), combining his work here with private surgical practice. His work during these years included investigations into leprosy and into various tropical diseases; in 1894 he encountered an outbreak of plague in Hong Kong. In 1897 he returned to London, where he was involved in the setting up of the Journal of Tropical Medicine in 1898 and of the London School of Tropical Medicine in 1899. He was President of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. During the early years of the twentieth century and particularly during the First World War his work centred on the provision and training of ambulance services. He died in 1926.


MSS.1456-1499 are arranged in chronological order of composition with the exception of the final item (MS.1499, a collection of questionnaire responses relating to the life history of Eurasian "half-castes") which is placed last as Cantlie is only one of many respondents to the survey. MSS.6931-6941 are arranged thematically, as follows: MS.6931, correspondence; MS.6932, personal and travel papers; MSS.6933-6934, medical notes; MSS.6935, printed material, general; MSS.6936-6938, material relating to papers published in the Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene , MS.6938 comprising illustrative material; MSS.6939-6940, illustrative material; MS.6941, certificates.

Access Information

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Major Neil Cantlie, 1931 (accession numbers 69762, 89186).

Other Finding Aids

Described in: S.A.J. Moorat, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1962-1973). Detailed catalogue available at

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

holograph manuscripts, typescripts and corrected proofs, held as volumes, files and bundles of papers.

Archivist's Note

description compiled by Christopher Hilton based upon those in the Library's published finding aid by S.A.J. Moorat and subsequent typescript supplementary finding aids by Richard Aspin, Christopher Hilton, Keith Moore and Richard Palmer. Biographical detail from Plarr's lives of the fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, revised by Sir D'Arcy Power with the assistance of W.G. Spencer and G.E. Gask (London: Royal College of Surgeons of England, 1997).

Separated Material

The Wellcome Library holds MS.4780, a collection of reports on cases in the Alice Memorial Hospital, Hong Kong, by John Christopher Thomson (1863-1943) which contains a few contributions by Cantlie; MSS.2934-2935 comprise examination papers by pupils at the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese (among them the future political leader Sun Yat Sen) kept by Cantlie in his personal papers.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.