James Pringle was born in 1863 in Parramatta, Australia. His father, George Hogarth Pringle, was also a surgeon and studied under Joseph Lister during Lister’s time in Edinburgh, before emigrating to Australia. George Hogarth Pringle introduced Lister’s antisepsis practice to Australia.
In 1872, James returned to Scotland and was then educated at Sedbergh in North Yorkshire before entering Edinburgh University medical school, graduating in 1885. He then travelled in Europe and studied methods and techniques in Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna. Next, he underwent training in ophthalmology in Moorfields Hospital, London, before returning to Scotland, working first as House Surgeon in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and then as House Surgeon at GRI under William Macewen. He became surgeon to GRI in 1896. With Macewen, he learned skills in brain surgery and was both innovative and successful in surgery for melanoma, tuberculosis and arterial sclerosis. His is most famous for the development of the Pringle Manoeuvre to minimise blood loss in hepatic surgery whilst surgeon at GRI.
Working at GRI, also afforded Pringle the opportunity to work alongside John Macintyre, who stablished the world’s first X-ray department in GRI in 1896. This, as well as his knowledge of Lister’s antisepsis practice (from both working in GRI and first hand from his father) allowed him to gain significant success and expertise in the management of fractures.
James Pringle, alongside William Macewen, was a staunch supporter of women in medicine. They were two of few senior figures who were very willing to have women students attend their clinics. Both Elsie Inglis and Louise McIlroy attended Dr Pringle’s clinics. Pringle was appointed Lecturer in Surgery and Anatomy Demonstrator at Queen Margaret College, in 1899. Queen Margaret College had, of course, been established for women students and taught women medical students from 1890/1891.
Pringle retired in 1923 and died at his home in Killearn, north of Glasgow, in 1941, aged 78.