MA Edin 1884, MB CM 1889, MD 1893 (Gold medal); LLD Belfast; DSc Manchester; FRS; FRCP Edin.
Smith was born in Dumfriesshire on 21 August 1862 and was educated in philosophy and medicine at Edinburgh University. Smith was particularly interested in physiology and pathology, and after graduating spent four years worked in Oxford on physiology with Professor Burdon Sanderson. He went to Belfast as lecturer in pathology in 1893 and was later appointed to the chair of pathology. Smith was elected professor in pathology at the University of Manchester in 1904, a position which included the role of honorary pathologist to MRI. While in Manchester he began his observations on fatty degeneration, in particular the identification of lipids, which he would later develop in Edinburgh. He also developed his method of teaching pathology, involving close cooperation with clinicians and the 'case method' derived from exhibiting cases of organs. He was also Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. He was largely responsible for the foundation of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, which held its first meeting in Manchester in 1906. Smith returned to Edinburgh in 1912 as professor of pathology. He died in Edinburgh on 18 April 1931.