Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Alexander Joseph Douglas (1874-1940)

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Alexander J. Douglas
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Medical health officer.

Born at Erkfrid, Ontario, 1874, son of William D. Douglas and Elizabeth Douglas, he came west as a boy, in 1882. Receiving a medical education at the Manitoba Medical College, he took up general practice in 1899 and became the first full-time head of the Winnipeg Department of Health in 1900, serving for 40 years.

Douglas was responsible for introducing many health services, including free vaccination for children, diphtheria immunization, and milk depots for babies’ milk. Douglas faced several serious epidemics in his early years, including several smallpox outbreaks, and a major typhoid epidemic which saw 1,605 cases, and 138 deaths, in 1905 alone. Not surprisingly, he was an advocate of an improved water supply to prevent disease, especially typhoid, and he mounted a campaign for milk pasteurization.

On 30 September 1902, he married Nettie Elberta Fairchild of Winnipeg, with whom he had a daughter. He was a founding member, in 1905, of the St. Charles Country Club. He was made an Honorary Member of the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors in 1934 and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba in 1937.

He died at Winnipeg on 30 June 1940.


Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.

Ian Carr and Robert E. Beamish, Manitoba Medicine, A Brief History. University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

Marriage registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Dr. Douglas, retired health officer, dies,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 July 1940. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B9, page 94]

“Death climaxes careers of many notable people in course of 1940”, Winnipeg Free Press, 1 January 1941, page 1.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

We thank Tim Roark for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 31 August 2014

Memorable Manitobans

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