X-ray pioneer Pirie gets permanent memorial

Dr Roddy Cameron of the Scottish Radiological Society and Kelly Ann Marr of Discovery Walk.
Dr Roddy Cameron of the Scottish Radiological Society and Kelly Ann Marr of Discovery Walk.
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A Scots medical pioneer who is commemorated in Germany but not in Scotland is at last going to get a permanent memorial in his homeland.

Dr George Pirie’s achievements will be celebrated on Dundee’s Discovery Walk, thanks to the Scottish Radiological Society (SRS). The SRS is donating £3,000 to pay for the creation of a bronze plaque for Dr Pirie, one of five planned to be installed next year in Discovery Walk’s second phase.

George Pirie was born in Dundee and studied medicine at Edinburgh University. He was one of the first doctors in the world to use X-rays in medicine, starting his investigations at Dundee Royal Infirmary within months of their discovery in 1895. In 1925 he was forced to retire due to ill-health brought about by prolonged radiation exposure and the increased workload that, ironically, his research had produced.

He was one of 169 X-ray pioneers from 15 nations honoured in the X-ray Martyrs’ Memorial unveiled in Hamburg in 1936 with the inscription: “They were heroic pioneers for a safe and successful application of X-rays to medicine. The fame of their deeds is immortal.”

But although he received an award from the people of Dundee during his lifetime and is included in the Roll of Honour of the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust UK, there has so far been no permanent memorial to him in Scotland.

Dr Roddy Cameron, Consultant Radiologist at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee and Archivist for the SRS, commented: “Radiology nowadays is central to safe and effective diagnosis, thanks to the tremendous technological advances since X-rays were discovered 121 years ago.

“Dr Pirie’s work was fundamental in setting that progress in train, developing Dundee Royal infirmary’s first X-ray department and seeing his workload increase dramatically as more medical applications for the technology were discovered.

“Sadly, his research and his workload contributed ultimately to his early death. The Scottish Radiological Society is pleased to be able to contribute to this long-overdue permanent memorial to our own Scottish pioneer of such a vital technology, here in his home town.”

Kelly Ann Marr, chair of the Discovery Walk Steering Group, said: “We’re delighted and very grateful to accept this generous donation from the Scottish Radiological Society. George Pirie typifies the spirit of discovery in Dundee that our project seeks to celebrate and promote among today’s Dundonians, particularly the young, and to highlight to the world at large just what makes Dundee so special.”

Discovery Walk comprises a series of plaques honouring the achievements of scientists, innovators and social reformers of the past who either came from or had a strong connection to Dundee.

The plaques are set into the pavements around Slessor Gardens at the heart of Dundee’s £1 billion Waterfront Redevelopment. There are currently nine plaques commemorating scientists, engineers, writers, artists, social reformers and philanthropists, plus a tenth plaque introducing the Walk.

A crowdfunding campaign was launched in late 2016 to fund the addition of five further plaques.

As well as George Pirie, the nominees being honoured in Phase Two will include: postage stamp pioneer James Chalmers; electrical scientist James Bowman Lindsay; inventor and instrument maker George Lowden; and doctor and health reformer Thomas Maclagan.

Along with donations from interested organisations such as the SRS, Discovery Walk is also inviting the public to support Phase Two through a unique crowdfunding initiative. A limited edition of 2,000 special commemorative badges has been produced for sale at £5 each in selected retailers around the city.

Badges can be bought at Eduardo Alessandro Studios (30 Gray Street, Broughty Ferry), Frameworks Studios (52 Commercial Street, Dundee), The Windsor Gallery (61 Perth Road, Dundee), Dobbies Garden Centre (Monifieth), Groucho’s Record Store (132 Nethergate, Dundee) and Tatha Gallery (1 High Street, Newport-on-Tay). The badges can also be bought online at https://goo.gl/BquhVo

All income will go to pay for the production and installation of the new plaques next year.