Malcolm, Andrew George (1818–56), physician and social reformer, was born 17 December 1818 in Newry, Co. Down, sixth child and fourth son among five sons and two daughters of the Rev. Andrew George Malcom (1782–1823), presbyterian minister, and Eleanor Malcom (née Hunter). Andrew Malcom was the son of James Malcom (d. 1805), presbyterian minister of Drumbo, Co. Down. He graduated MA and DD from Glasgow University and served the congregation in Dunmurry, Co. Antrim (1807) and subsequently in Newry (1807–23). A contributor to the Belfast Magazine and a founder of the Newry Magazine, he published A collection of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, proper for Christian worship (Newry, 1811); in current use for many years, it included twenty-three hymns of his own composition. He took a leading role in the foundation of a book society, and was secretary and treasurer of the board of health during the fever epidemic (1818) and moderator of the general synod of Ulster (1820). He died 12 January 1823 of typhus in Newry while attending his congregation during an epidemic. His children changed the family name to ‘Malcolm’, believing that they were reverting to the original spelling.
Andrew George Malcolm was educated at the Belfast (Royal) Academical Institution (1829–36), attending both the school and the collegiate section, where he began his medical education, before graduating LRCS and MD (1842) from Edinburgh, winning a gold medal for his thesis ‘On the pathology of continued fever’.
Returning to Belfast, he began practice (1842–56) from his mother's house, 29 York St., and was elected medical attendant to district no. 1 (1842–5), and attending physician (1845–56) of the Belfast Fever Hospital and General Dispensary (later known as the Royal Victoria Hospital). Throughout his short life Malcolm was an ardent reformer; he was one of those who successfully campaigned in 1845 for dispensary doctors to be paid salaries in order to encourage doctors to serve the poor. Appointed the first salaried dispensary doctor at the hospital (1846), he was a member of the managing committee (1849–51) till it was replaced by the system of poor-law dispensaries. A progressive and assiduous teacher, he, together with James Moore (qv), an attending surgeon, made the dispensary into a valuable teaching centre and later transformed it into an extern department. Malcolm's An introduction to clinical study . . . adapted to the use of medical students was published posthumously (1856). In 1848 he was appointed dispensary physician to the Ophthalmic Institution, Mill (later Castle) St., treating infants and children, and became secretary and registrar (1853) to the Belfast Lying-in Hospital, Clifton St.
Elected a member of the Belfast Medical Society (1842), he became vice-president in 1851. Convinced of the value of pathology for the general practitioner, he is credited with the founding of the Belfast Clinical and Pathological Society in 1853. An active society, it welcomed students and attracted members from outside Belfast. During his presidency (1855–6), Malcolm nominated as honorary members William Stokes (qv), R. W. Smith (qv), and J. M. Neligan (qv), all from Dublin. He was the main contributor of specimens to the museum and an early enthusiast for microscopy: in 1854 he exhibited organs, tissues, plaster casts, and a series of daguerrotypes entitled ‘The physiognomy of disease’, and the following year photographs taken by himself, illustrating diseases of every system of the body.
He was a key member and founding secretary (1845) of the Belfast Society for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Working Classes. The decision having been made to provide public baths and washhouses, Malcolm inspected public baths in England and reported to the society in 1846, whereupon Charles Lanyon (qv) designed the first public baths and washhouses in Ireland. In the first nine days after these opened (May 1847) in Townsend St., 1,328 persons used the baths, and 222 used the facilities for washing and drying clothes. The shortfall in funds however, led to repeated and unsuccessful requests to the Belfast town council to take the baths into public ownership. In his Cleanliness and the advantages of the bath (2nd ed. 1848), Malcolm noted that the bath was no longer a luxury for the wealthy but available to the labouring man; but in 1849 he paid out a considerable sum of his own money as guarantor to the bank of the debt incurred by the society, and after his death the baths were closed down and the property sold (1861).
Assisted by leading mill owners, Malcolm was founder and first president of the Belfast Working Classes’ Association for the Promotion of General Improvement (1846); two-thirds of its management committee was composed of working men, and it aimed at encouraging the working community to strive for their own improvement, especially in intellectual development. Malcolm arranged public lectures on a variety of subjects, including astronomy, sanitary reform, and the education of women. In 1847 the People's News-Room was opened, providing ninety-six Irish, English, Scottish, and American newspapers and periodicals; by 1848 it boasted 2,405 subscribers and 12,930 visitors. The People's Circulating Library (also opened 1847) was less successful than the news-room, but preceded the first free municipal library in Belfast by forty-one years. Malcolm was founder (1847) and editor of the association's journal, the Belfast People's Magazine; non-political, non-sectarian, and possessing a ‘cheerful diversity’ (Calwell, 74), it included poetry, fiction, and reviews, but its main cause was the development of the working classes and the promotion of improved health, housing, sanitary reform, and public parks.
Malcolm tried to awaken public interest in the appalling conditions in which the poor lived, and continually campaigned for improved sanitation. In April 1847 he published a series of articles in the People's Magazine under the title ‘Sanitary inspections of Belfast’, in which he gave a detailed description of a survey he had undertaken in the New Lodge Road district, demonstrating the ill effects on health of living in a poor area. He warned of the approaching Asiatic cholera epidemic, emphasising that cholera is most virulent where sanitary measures are most neglected, and mobilised forces to deal with the disease. He compiled a report for the Belfast town meeting in March 1848 in which he proposed the formation of a committee to carry out reforms, which included the provision of efficient drainage, water in every house, public lavatories, regular street cleaning, and improved ventilation in buildings. His recommendations were accepted and he became the founding secretary of the Belfast Sanitary Committee. In A brief practical view of the Asiatic cholera (1849), he argued that there should be no relaxation in sanitary reform with the decline of the epidemic, but the Sanitary Committee was dissolved in 1850.
Concerned with the health of factory workers, in ‘The influence of factory life on the health of the operative as founded upon the medical statistics of this class at Belfast’ (Journal of the Statistical Society of London, xix (1856), 170–81), he demonstrated the harmful effects of flax dust on the lungs of factory workers and pleaded for improvements in factory hygiene; the paper demonstrated his detailed knowledge of the linen industry, enthusiasm for the statistical approach to health problems, and commitment to social reform. A council member of the Belfast Social Enquiry Society, he contributed papers to professional journals and wrote a valuable history The General Hospital, Belfast, and the other medical institutions of the town (Belfast, 1851). His publications are listed in Calwell's biography.
A frequent correspondent with doctors throughout England and Ireland, Malcolm was elected an honorary member of the County and City of Cork Medical and Surgical Society (1855) and a corresponding member of the Manchester Medico-Ethical Society (1855). In August 1856, accompanied by his wife, he visited Dublin for medical treatment and died there unexpectedly of heart failure on 19 September 1856. He was buried in the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churchyard in Dunmurry. After his death a memorial tablet (now lost) was erected in the hospital; John S. Drennan (1809–93) wrote a poem, ‘Lines on the death of the late A. G. Malcolm, Esq., M.D.’ (published in the Belfast Daily Mercury); and the Malcolm exhibition and prize was established for final year medical students at the hospital.
He married (1854) Maria Glenny Home (d. 1906), a philanthropist and key figure in the founding of the Domestic Mission to the Poor in Belfast (1853), a society that gave moral and religious instruction through a free school, and also taught needlework to girls and provided industrial training for boys. Their only child, a son, was born (August 1856) in Dublin, and died the following year.