The Dr Albert McKern Fellowship

Easing the pain of childbirth

What makes a pregnant woman go into labour? This fundamental question, one that lies at the start of every human life on the planet, remains strangely unanswered.

It is a mystery that perplexed Edinburgh alumnus Dr Albert McKern. Nearly 70 years after Dr McKern’s death, in a Japanese internment camp in Sumatra, his empathetic inquiry is finally being investigated.

Dr McKern’s legacy is one of the most unusual received by the University. Having previously attended the University of Sydney in his native Australia, and then the University of Yale in the US, he graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a medical degree shortly after the First World War. He practiced medicine in what was known as Malaya – contemporary Singapore – where he wrote his will in 1944. It stipulated that 10 years after the death of his last immediate family member, the proceeds of his estate should be divided between his three alma maters.

The legacy has established the Dr Albert S McKern Fellowship, and is currently paying for PhD students and postdoctoral fellows to carry out research into pregnancy, as well as other projects across the University.

For more information about leaving a legacy please visit the Edinburgh Campaign website.


It is so fantastic that he put money into an area that so often seems to be overlooked. When people are making their will they are thinking about heart disease and cancer, but not many go back to the very start of their lives and think about making pregnancy better.

Professor Jane Norman

Director of Tommy’s research centre in Edinburgh

Get involved

For further information on legacies please contact: Morag Murison