Scots medical pioneer John Chassar Moir honoured

A SCOTTISH doctor who created a drug that has saved the lives of countless women during childbirth is to be honoured in his home town.
John Chassar Moir: Spent six shillings on equipment. Picture: ContributedJohn Chassar Moir: Spent six shillings on equipment. Picture: Contributed
John Chassar Moir: Spent six shillings on equipment. Picture: Contributed

In 1935, Professor John Chassar Moir spent six shillings (30p) on equipment to develop the drug ergometrine, credited with controlling blood loss by mothers during childbirth.

Using a length of lead piping and parts from an alarm clock, he invented a delivery system for ergometrine that reduces and controls blood loss in mothers in the 24 hours after childbirth.

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Ergometrine is still in worldwide use today and is one of the World Health Organisation’s List of Essential Medicines.

Later this week, a bronze bust of Prof Moir, who died in 1977, will be unveiled at the Montrose Museum.

It took Professor Chassar Moir four years to perfect the new drug from the cereal fungus ergot of rye.

After leaving Montrose Academy Chassar Moir studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh specialising in obstetrics.

He obtained a Fellowship of Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1926 and in 1937 was appointed the first Nuffield Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Oxford.

He was a private and quiet man who lived for his patients and his medical research. He sought no financial gain from his ground-breaking drug and was determined it would be freely available to assist women in childbirth.

He said at the time the drug ‘Ergometrine’ was to have its method of preparation published in full. No patent or proprietary interests were to encumber it. It was to be free for any manufacturer to produce.

Later this week a bronze bust of Professor Chassar Moir will be unveiled the Montrose Museum. The bust will on view to the public before being permanently sited at the Links Health Centre in thje town.

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The event has been organised by the Montrose Society, whose spokesman Dr Andrew Orr said: “The bronze will help mark an important contribution to medicine in the 20th Century.

“This gift of safety has been shared by every woman around the world as she gives birth.”

“He is up there with great Scottish scientists like Alexander Fleming. He made this great contribution to the world, one of the most important ones of the 20th century and sought no commercial gain from it.

“I have been an admirer of him throughout my professional career and back in 1989 we had the local maternity unit named after him.

“But all the thousands of women who have given birth there do not realise the significance of his gift.

“In genealogy every family has some mother who died in childbirth and he basically stopped that. That was his main discovery.”

The unveiling ceremony will be attended by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Daughter Priscilla Moir Sharp said: “We are very proud that he is being recognized in his home town. He was a quiet thoughtful man who cared about his patients and people in general.

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“When he realized the significance of his discovery he was adamant no drug company would make huge profits from it. He published his research so that everyone could benefit.

“It was a low cost drug that was available at a relatively low cost all over the world and, decades on from his discovery it is still saving lives.”

Professor Chassar Muir died in 1977 and is buried in his hometown of Montrose.

His obituary in the British Medical Journal described him as: “A great and gentle man; a man who did more than anyone living today to save the lives and relieve the miseries of women.”