IN Wikipedia’s list of “notable people” from Galashiels, you’ll find a dozen or so personalities – from the artist Anne Redpath to sporting legends Ryan Mania, John Collins, Gregor Townsend and Brian Shillinglaw.

Also tucked away on that roll of honour is the name of a remarkable and charismatic individual called Archie Cochrane – a man whose impact on his chosen profession of medicine is beyond estimation.

Although Professor A. L. Cochrane died in 1988, his legacy lives on.

In 1992, his life and work inspired the formation of the Cochrane Foundation, a now global independent network of practitioners whose mission is to share research-generated evidence to inform decisions about health treatments. The group is free from commercial sponsorship and other conflicts of interest.

In 2010, the new medical school building at Cardiff University, where Cochrane spent an important part of his career, was named after him “so that students will always be reminded of the principles of academic excellence and equality in healthcare for which he stood”.

Now a new publication by the highly respected Oxford University Press is bringing the work and example of Cochrane to a new generation of medical students.

Entitled “Archibald Cochrane – the Father of Evidence Based Medicine,” the paper highlights the immense contribution of a true pioneer and the continued impact of his methods and philosophy on modern day health care.

So who was this extraordinary son of Galashiels?

His paternal grandfather – also Archie Cochrane – was an early mover and shaker in the town’s tweed industry, opening the huge and successful Netherdale Mill in 1857. The footway, leading from Archie snr’s house on the old Abbotsford Road to the mill survives today as “Archie’s Walk”.

The first son of Walter Cochrane and Emma (nee Purdom) Cochrane, Archibald Leman Cochrane was born at Kirklands, Galashiels, in 1909.

In 1916 with the Great War raging, young Archie was sent to a preparatory school in Wales. A year later, his tweed manufacturer father was killed at the Battle of Gaza in Palestine. Walter Cochrane had served as a Captain with the KOSB and was buried at Gaza War Cemetery. Soon afterwards, Archie’s youngest brother Walter Lees Cochrane died of tubercular pneumonia.

A brilliant student, Archie continued his education at Uppingham School, Rutland where he played rugby for the 1st XV, before winning a scholarship to King’s College Cambridge where he obtained a first class honours degree in Natural Sciences.

Another family tragedy struck in 1930 when his brother Robert Purdom Cochrane, one year his junior, was killed in a motor cycle accident.

Before beginning his medical studies at the University Hospital in London in 1934, Archie indulged his fascination with psychanalysis by spending a year studying with Theodor Reik, an eminent student of Sigmund Freud, in Berlin and Vienna.

From 1935 to 1937, Archie’s distaste for fascism – he was a member of the Socialist Medical Association - saw him enrol as an officer with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. He served with the field ambulance unit of the Spanish Medical Aid Committee on the Aragon front and at the siege of Madrid.

Returning to London to qualify as a doctor, he was house physician at the West London Hospital when war broke out. Serving as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, he was taken prisoner in Crete.

He was a prisoner of war for four years, serving the needs of fellow inmates in Salonica (Greece) and at three camps in Germany. He was awarded the MBE (Military) by King George VI on January 1, 1945 for his “gallant and distinguished” services as a camp doctor.

While incarcerated at Salonica, Cochrane performed his first randomized controlled trial (RCT) among a group of 20 prisoners suffering from ankle oedema.

The Germans refused to help him, so he bought yeast and vitamin C supplements on the camp’s black market. He divided the prisoners into two groups of 10, giving one group the yeast and the other the vitamins. After four days, the yeast consuming inmates felt better and the oedeoma had subsided, while there was no discernable change in health of the other group.

He recorded the results and presented them to the Germans who then agreed to provide all camp prisoners with yeast - and incidence of oedema dropped dramatically.

Cochrane was not happy with the conditions of the trial and felt an element of luck had been involved, but he felt vindicated in his view that RCT’s, virtually unknown at that time, were the way forward.

He remained convinced throughout his career that no medical intervention should ever be performed unless there was systematic and scientific evidence to validate its effectiveness.

The new paper on Cochrane reveals that his passion for evidence based medicine (EBM) extended to conducting trials on his own family.

Both he and his younger sister Helen, who died in 2002, were diagnosed with the metabolic disorder porphyria, and he was worried other members of his large, scattered family may be carriers.

He therefore requested faecal and urinary samples from all 153 of them to find out who was at risk.

“Cochrane never ceased to challenge the existing medical, diagnostic and investigational strategies in order to improve the provision of health,” states the paper.

“The groundbreaking concepts he formulated…had an enormous positive impact on clinical medicine as a whole.” After the war, Cochrane took a diploma in public health and spent a year in the United States researching the study of X-rays for pulmonary tuberculosis.

In 1949 he jointed the Medical Research Council’s pneumoconiosis research unit at Cardiff where his work included extensive surveys of chest disease among the population of two South Wales mining communities.

In 1968, he was awarded a CBE for his services to the Welsh National School of Medicine (now the School of Medicine at Cardiff University) and the following year, having retired as professor, he was appointed director of the Medical Research Council’s epidemiology unit in the city.

In 1972, Archie Cochrane published his seminal book “Effectiveness and Efficiency” which stimulated critical evaluation of health services worldwide and was printed in eight languages.

Also in that year, he was appointed the first president of the Faculty of Public Health of the Royal College of Physicians of the United Kingdom.

He continued to lecture at home and abroad and, before he died in Dorset aged 79, he was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Rochester in the USA.

A year after his death in 1988, his autobiography One Man’s Medicine was published to great acclaim.

In his will, he bequeathed £300,000 to Green College in Oxford, which specialises in medical and life sciences.

Archie Cochrane took the liberty of writing his own obituary for the British Medical Journal.

In it, he states he “always admitted the value of a private income in helping his career”, adding: “He was a man with severe porphyria who smoked too much and was without the consultation of a wife, a religious belief or a merit award – but he didn’t do so badly.”