Professor Norman McOmish Dott (1897-1973) was born in Edinburgh to art dealer Peter McOmish Dott and his wife, Rebecca, and was the third of five children. Norman showed considerable flair for design and engineering and was apprenticed to the local engineering firm of McTaggart Scott & Co after he left George Heriot’s School. However, a motorcycle accident in Lothian Road in 1913 led to a leg injury and a spell in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Although the injury was to affect him for the rest of his life, Dott became fascinated by hospital life and entered the University of Edinburgh to study medicine, where he graduated in 1919.
Following impressive surgical appointments, teaching and research, Dott was awarded a Rockefeller Travelling Fellowship in 1923, spending a year with American neurosurgery pioneer Professor Harvey Williams Cushing (1869-1939) in Boston. In the same year (1923), he was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. The next stage in Dott’s career saw him become Honorary Surgeon at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children whilst at the same time working in private practice as a neurosurgeon. Dott used a nursing home in Edinburgh’s New Town for neurosurgery on private patients, to which he and his team had to transport their instruments by taxi or private car!
Dott helped to establish the Department of Surgical Neurology at the Western General Hospital in 1960, taking a leading role in the design of operating theatres, notably including a reflector vaulted roof that avoided shadow falling on patient and surgeon.