Wilfred Thomason Grenfell

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Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, KCMG (February 28, 1865-October 9, 1940) was a medical missionary to Newfoundland and Labrador.

He was born at Parkgate, Wirral and married Anne Elizabeth Caldwell MacClanahan of Chicago, Illinois in 1909. She died in 1938. They had three children and retired to Vermont after his work in Newfoundland.


Medical education and mission work

Grenfell moved to London in 1882. He then commenced the study of medicine at the London Hospital Medical College (now part of Queen Mary, University of London). He graduated in 1888. The Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen sent Grenfell to Newfoundland in 1892 to develop a medical mission. That mission began in earnest in 1893 when he recruited two nurses and two doctors for hospitals, at Battle Harbour and in Indian Harbour in Labrador. The mission expanded greatly from its initial mandate of providing medical services to develop, schools, an orphanage, cooperatives, industrial work projects, and social work. Although originally founded to serve the local fishermen the mission developed to include the aboriginal peoples and settlers along the coasts of Labrador and the eastern side of the Great Northern Peninsula of northern Newfoundland.


International Grenfell Association

By 1914 the mission had gained international status. In order to manage its property and affairs, the International Grenfell Association, a non-profit mission society, was founded to support Grenfell's work. The Association operated, until 1981, as an NGO. It had responsibility for delivery of healthcare and social services in northern Newfoundland and Labrador. After 1981 a governmental agency, The Grenfell Regional Health Services Board, took over the operational responsibility. The International Grenfell Association, having divested itself of all properties and operational responsibility for health and social services, then became a supporting association making grants and funding scholarships for medical training.

Historical Society

The Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell Historical Society was formed in 1978. The society purchased Grenfell's home in St. Anthony, Newfoundland and Labrador. The home has been restored as a museum and archives.

Literary inspiration

A unique figure, Grenfell served to inspire at least two characters in Canadian literature: Dr Luke in Norman Duncan's Doctor Luke of the Labrador (1904) and Dr Tocsin in White Eskimo by Harold Horwood (1972).



  • Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George - 1907
  • Honorary Doctorate of Medicine, Oxford University – 1907 (first ever granted)
  • Murchison Prize, Royal Geographical Society - 1911 (awarded the for his charts of Labrador)
  • Knighthood - 1927 (recognition of medical, educational and social work)
  • Honorary Knight for Life, Loyal Knights of the Round Table, Fifth Rank - 1928 (for great service to humanity)
  • Induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame - 1997

In 1979, the Corner Brook campus of Memorial University of Newfoundland was renamed Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in his honour.

Stamp featuring Sir Wilfred Grenfell
Stamp featuring Sir Wilfred Grenfell


External links

Faith (for Content):