Lindsay, James Alexander (1856–1931), doctor and author, was born 20 June 1856 at Lisnacrieve House, Fintona, Co. Tyrone, one of two sons and three daughters of David Lindsay, businessman, and Ellen Lindsay (née Johnson). He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and the Methodist College, Belfast, before entering QCB, where he won many awards, and graduated BA (1877), MA (1878), with two gold medals, MD, and M.Ch. (1882), and undertook postgraduate study in London, Paris, and Vienna.
He established a practice (1880) in Belfast, and was appointed successively first house physician (1882–3), assistant physician on the visiting staff (1883–8), attending physician (1888–1921) and consulting physician (1921–31) at the Royal Victoria Hospital, and chairman of its board of management for several years after 1918. He occupied (1899–1923) the chair of medicine at QCB/QUB, and probably exercised more influence in the medical school than any of his contemporaries. Respected as a skilled clinician and an able teacher, he placed less emphasis on treatment and more on accurate observation in diagnosis and prognosis. Probably the first teacher in the Belfast medical school to emphasise the importance of case histories, he deprecated short cuts to diagnosis by instrumental and laboratory methods before clinical examination and a thorough history had been carried out. He was popular with students; in the alphabet of hospital lore, ‘L is for Lindsay our boss ausculator / At spotting a murmur there's no one is nater’ (Fraser, ‘Personalities’). He published Medical axioms, aphorisms and clinical memoranda (1923), described as a ‘virtual treasure house of distilled medical wisdom’ (Allison, 217). He was appointed examiner for the RUI (1900–09), TCD, and the universities of Manchester and Leeds, and served as senator of QUB.
Responsible (1886–92) for the consumptive department (opened 1885) of the Throne Hospital, Belfast, he published The climatic treatment of consumption (1887), one of the earliest books on this aspect of the disease. He also contributed ‘Diseases of the pleura’ to the Encyclopaedia medica (1901), was commissioned by the Lancet to enquire into hygienic conditions in Sicily, and was the Lancet's correspondent for many years. Other publications include Lectures ... on the diseases of the lungs and the heart (1904; 2nd ed. 1906) and papers in professional journals.
Member (1890) and fellow (1903) of the Royal College of Physicians (London), he was its Bradshawe lecturer (1909), the first Belfast physician to be so honoured, and lectured on ‘Darwinism and medicine’. He served (1896–9) on the central council of the British Medical Association; was joint secretary of the Section of Medicine at the annual meetings held in Newcastle upon Tyne (1893) and Belfast (1909); and was president (1905) of its Ulster branch, and Belfast correspondent of the British Medical Journal. He was elected fellow (1883), secretary, and president (1897) and hon. fellow of the Ulster Medical Society. Other distinctions include his presidency of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland (1927), fellowship and vice-presidency of the Section of Medicine of the Royal Society of Medicine and fellow of the RAMI.
Forward-looking and an able administrator, Lindsay was an early supporter (1888) of the proposal for a separate university for Ulster, arguing that such an institution should succeed as well in Belfast as in Glasgow. He was chairman of the board of management of the Belfast Maternity Hospital and influential in the amalgamation that resulted in the Royal Maternity Hospital; he also played a leading role in the Belfast School of Dentistry, proposing its establishment (1919) in the senate of QUB, and subsequently chairing the committee that led to its foundation (1920). A distinguished classical scholar and a great traveller, he was a member of the Aristotelian Society and elected president of the Belfast Literary Society, the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society (1911–15), and the Literary and Scientific Society of QUI, and vice-president of the Linen Hall Library. A gifted writer, he published Among the thinkers: leaves from my notebooks (1931), articles on philosophical, theological, and social subjects, and was joint compiler with James C. Lindsay of The Lindsay memoirs (1884). He was also chairman of the board of governors of the Methodist College, Belfast.
A bachelor, small in stature with a fine, disproportionately large head, ‘Wee Jimmy’ was unassuming and convivial, and lived at 3 Queen's Elms, Belfast, before moving (1928) to London. He returned (1930) to Belfast and died in a nursing home on 14 December 1931. The funeral was held at University Road methodist church, Belfast, of which he had been a member and trustee.