About Andrew F. Holmes


Dr. Andrew Fernando Holmes (1797-1860)
Founder and Head of the Department of Medicine from 1843-1854;
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine from 1854-1860

Dr. Andrew Fernando Holmes is the first figure in the history of the Faculty of Medicine to have served both as Department Head and Dean. This significant man had a unique beginning: Dr. Holmes was born in Cadiz, Spain. However, when his parents’ ship from the British Isles was captured by a French frigate, his life was rerouted to Canada, where he ultimately settled in Montreal. Dr. Holmes apprenticed in Montreal in 1811 and received a license from the Montreal board of medical examiners five years later, but was not content with the local qualifications. He continued his education in Scotland, obtaining a diploma from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1818 and his MD degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1819. He joined the medical staff of the Montreal General Hospital in 1822.

The most scholarly and versatile of the four founders of what became the Faculty of Medicine, he was also an accomplished naturalist, interested in chemistry, botany and mineralogy. Dr. Holmes worked with Dr. John Stephenson, a fellow founder and former classmate in Edinburgh, to draft a proposal in 1822 inquiring into the feasibility of establishing a permanent medical school. When the Montreal Medical Institution was opened, Dr. Holmes taught chemistry, botany and pharmacy. He remained with the Institution through its affiliation with McGill in 1829, and succeeded Dr. Robertson as head of the Medical Faculty. During his tenure as Dean, the Departments for Clinical Medicine and Medical Jurisprudence were founded. Dr. Holmes also supervised a relocation of the Faculty to the building that is now the Arts Building in 1846, as well as the construction of a new medical school on Coté Street with a library, museum, two lecture halls and a dissecting room in 1850. In 1854, an administrative title change made Dr. Holmes the first Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, a position he held until his sudden death in 1860. The Holmes Medal for academic achievement was established in 1865 in his honour.

Source: Anna Dysert and Kathleen Reynolds. 2013. Dean Biographies. McGill University. Montreal.