Cluny MacPherson

For the Jacobite clan chief, see Ewen MacPherson of Cluny.
Cluny Macpherson

Colonel Dr. Cluny Macpherson in Egypt, September 1915
Born (1879-03-18)March 18, 1879
St. John's, Newfoundland
Died November 16, 1966(1966-11-16) (aged 87)
St. John's, Newfoundland
Education Methodist College (St. John’s)
McGill University
Occupation Physician, Officer
Known for Inventor of the gas mask
Board member of International Grenfell Association (IGA)
Grenfell Association, Newfoundland
St. John’s Clinical Society
Spouse(s) Eleanora Barbara Thompson (O.B.E., Dame of Order of St. John of Jerusalem) (m. 1902–64)
Children Emma Allison (1903–1971)
Campbell Leonard (1907–1973)

Cluny Macpherson CMG MD FRCS (18 March 1879 in St. John's, Newfoundland – 16 November 1966) was a Physician and the inventor of the gas mask.[1]

During the First World War the German army used poison gas for the first time, against Allied troops at Ypres, Belgium in 1915. A soldier's only protection was to breathe through a handkerchief or other small piece of fabric soaked in urine.

Out of necessity, Doctor Cluny Macpherson quickly came up with the idea of a gas mask made of fabric and metal. Using a helmet taken from a captured German prisoner, he added a canvas hood with eyepieces and a breathing tube. The helmet was treated with chemicals that would absorb the chlorine used in the gas attacks. After a few improvements, Cluny Macpherson's helmet became the first gas mask to be used by the British army.[2]

This Newfoundlander's invention was the most important protective device of the First World War, protecting countless soldiers from blindness, disfigurement or injury to their throats and lungs. For his services, he was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1918.[3]

Macpherson received his medical education from Methodist College and McGill University. MacPherson started the first St. John Ambulance Brigade in Newfoundland after working with the St. John Ambulance Association.[4]

Macpherson served as the principal medical officer for the St. John Ambulance Brigade of the first Newfoundland Regiment during World War I. Macpherson began researching methods of protection against the poison gas and invented the Macpherson respirator (gas mask) in 1915, which was the first general issue gas countermeasure to be used by the British Army.

After suffering a war injury, Macpherson returned to Newfoundland to serve as the director of the military medical service and later served as the president of the St. John's Clinical Society and the Newfoundland Medical Association. Macpherson was awarded many honours for his contributions to medical science.

Cluny Macpherson Married Eleanora Thompson in 1902. His home at 65 Rennie’s Mill Road, where he served as secretary, treasurer and registrar for the Newfoundland Medical Society now has historic designation.


  1. "Gas Mask - Incredible Inventions". Cool Canada. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  2. Brown, J.J. (1967). The Inventors: Great Ideas in Canadian Enterprise. McClelland and Stewart. ASIN B001F37X8I.
  3. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30721. p. 6515. 3 June 1918.
  4. Faculty of Medicine Founders' Archive Retrieved 12 June 2012. Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links

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