Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

“He had an infectious sense of wonder and curiosity that inspired others.”

© Irma Coucill and CMHF
2012 Inductee

Peter Macklem, MD

October 4, 1931, Kingston Ontario
February 11, 2011
MD - McGill University
One of Canada’s greatest pulmonary physicians, clinician-scientists and original thinkers, Dr. Peter T. Macklem forever changed the face of respiratory medicine by pioneering the study of small airway physiology and identifying the early pulmonary damage caused by smoking. He is recognized worldwide as a giant of respiratory medicine, and his work constitutes the scientific foundation for our ongoing campaign against smoking. In addition, he helped pioneer the concept of respiratory muscle fatigue, which had a direct impact on the management of patients in the intensive care unit and helped lead to a better understanding of the role of the respiratory muscles in pulmonary disease.

Beginning in the early 1960s and throughout his brilliant career spent primarily at McGill University Health Centre’s Royal Victoria Hospital, Dr. Macklem was a remarkably creative and prolific scientist who contributed a number of seminal ideas to the field of respiratory medicine. 

With a bold curiosity and a gifted intellect, Dr. Macklem’s impact was also felt in other areas of respiratory disease, ranging from asthma and stuttering to the study of the theory of complexity and its implications for pulmonary function. He continually investigated, questioned and probed the physiology and mechanics of the respiratory system and related his many findings to real clinical problems in a way that guided physicians and benefited patients. He also developed devices and technologies that permitted, for the first time, the accurate measurement of intrabronchial pressure and collateral ventilation. The modern pulmonary function laboratory is a direct reflection of his relentless search for a better way.

Dr. Macklem also made vital research contributions, most notably as the founding Scientific Director of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories, one of Canada’s and the world’s leading centres for pulmonary research. Through his work, life and leadership he has inspired and fostered the careers of physicians who hold positions of leadership in respiratory medicine in Canada and around the world.

With a long list of honours that are both earned and deserved, Dr. Macklem was respected and revered worldwide. He was a medalist of the American College of Chest Physicians (1979), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1982), and Officer in the Order of Canada (1988), a John B. Sterling medalist given to an outstanding graduate of Queen’s University (1991), a Trudeau medalist of the American Lung Association (1999), and a European Respiratory Society Congress Chairman Awardee (2008). He has also received honourary doctorates from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (1987) and the University of Athens (1997).