HALL, ARCHIBALD, physician, educator, and editor; b. 8 Nov. 1812 in Montreal, son of Jacob Hall, hatter, and Rebecca Ferguson; m. Agnes Burgess on 17 May 1838 in Montreal, and they had two children; d. 14 Feb. 1868 in Montreal.
Archibald Hall obtained his first education at the Royal Grammar School of Montreal under Alexander Skakel* and in his early years developed a strong love for the study of natural history. In 1828 he commenced medical training by apprenticeship to Dr William Robertson* of the Montreal General Hospital. The following year Hall registered as a medical student at the McGill College Medical Faculty and attended for three academic sessions. In November 1832 he transferred to the University of Edinburgh where he received the doctorate of medicine in 1834.
Shortly after graduation, Hall returned to Canada and in 1835 began practising medicine in Montreal. He was also appointed to the McGill Medical Faculty in 1835 and served as a member of that faculty until his death, holding the posts of lecturer on materia medica (1835–42, 1849–54), lecturer on chemistry (1842–49), and professor of midwifery and the diseases of women and children (1854–68). Hall was also on the staff of the two hospitals affiliated with McGill University at that time, the Montreal General and the University Lying-In, and as professor of midwifery was physician accoucheur to the latter institution.
Hall’s interest in natural history continued after he had chosen medicine as a career. The subject of his doctoral thesis was the respiratory function of plants. Two years after graduation he forwarded to Edinburgh a collection of Canadian plants. In 1839 he prepared for the Natural History Society of Montreal a lengthy memoir on the mammals and birds of the district of Montreal; he was awarded the society’s silver medal and a part of the memoir was published in the Canadian Naturalist and Geologist.
Throughout his professional life, Archibald Hall was actively concerned with medical education and licensing. He played a prominent role not only in his medical school and teaching hospitals but also in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Lower Canada, a provincial licensing body of which he became vice-president in 1856 and president in 1859. A vigorous supporter of the McGill Medical Faculty with its British roots, his forthrightness frequently brought him into conflict with those of differing views. His avowed intent, as he himself wrote, was to “state the truth, irrespective of persons, and fearless of consequences.”
Hall’s chief claim to remembrance is his work as a medical journalist. When he launched in 1845 with the assistance of Robert Lea MacDonnell* the British American Journal of Medical and Physical Science (which became the British American Medical and Physical Journal in 1850 and continued until 1852), there had only been two earlier Canadian medical journals and both had lasted less than two years, the Journal de médecine de Québec/Quebec Medical Journal founded in 1826 by Dr François-Xavier Tessier*, and the Montreal Medical Gazette founded by Drs Francis Badgley and William Sutherland in 1844. From 1860 to 1862 Hall was editor of another medical journal, the British American Journal.
Hall was a good writer and he probably welcomed the opportunity the journals provided to air his views, always strongly held, on virtually any subject he chose. Nevertheless, the task of editor was not easy. Relatively few Canadian medical men had the time, inclination, or even ability to furnish original articles on medicine, and such articles should be the mainstay of professional journals which primarily must disseminate information useful in practice. As a result, considerable space was allotted to abstracts or reprints from British and American journals. There were many medical news items, particularly from the McGill Medical Faculty and the Montreal General Hospital, as well as reports of meetings, including those of the Montreal Medico-Chirurgical Society which Hall himself had helped found in 1843. All this meant a heavy work load for an editor with many other duties, including a busy medical practice. But Hall’s chief worry was financial support. The number of potential subscribers was small and advertising had not yet become an important source of revenue. There was always the danger that the editor might have to assume personal responsibility for debts incurred. Editorship thus required courage and a willingness to make substantial sacrifices, qualities which Hall possessed in abundance.
Archibald Hall, An apology for British and colonial medical degrees or strictures on the report of the special committee of the Legislative Assembly on the laws relative to the practice of physic, surgery and midwifery in Lower Canada (Montreal, 1853); Letters on medical education . . . addressed to the members of the provincial legislature of Canada (Montreal and Kingston, [Ont.], 1842); “On the mammals and birds of the district of Montreal,” Canadian Naturalist and Geologist (Montreal), VI (1861), 284–309; VII (1862), 44–78, 171–93, 289–316, 344–76, 401–30; “On the past, present, and future of the faculty of medicine of McGill University; an introductory lecture delivered at the opening of the session 1866–67,” Canada Medical Journal and Monthly Record of Medical and Surgical Science (Montreal), III (1866), 289–302.
ANQ-M, État civil, Anglicans, Christ Church, 8 Nov. 1812, 17 May 1838. McGill University Archives (Montreal), McGill University student register. PAC, RG 4, B28, 53, pp.1748–49. “The late Archibald Hall, M.D., L.R.C.S.E.,” Canada Medical Journal and Monthly Record of Medical and Surgical Science (Montreal), IV (1868), 429–32. Gazette (Montreal), 17 Feb. 1868. Montreal Herald, 17 Feb. 1868. McGill University, Faculty of Medicine, Annual calendars (Montreal). Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis. Abbott, History of medicine, 68–69, 72, 87–88. H. E. MacDermot, History of the Canadian Medical Association, 1867–1921 (Toronto, 1935), 4, 120, 128, 131, 133–34, 155; A history of the Montreal General Hospital (Montreal, 1950), 15, 26, 31, 61. M. E. Abbott, “The faculty of medicine of McGill University,” Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics (Chicago), 60 (1935), 242–53. D. C. MacCallum, “Reminiscences of the Medical School of McGill University,” McGill University Magazine (Montreal), 2 (1903), 124–48. H. E. MacDermot, “Early medical journalism in Canada,” Canadian Medical Assoc., Journal (Toronto), 72 (1955), 536–39.