February 28, 1865

(Parkgate, England)


October 9, 1940


MD, University of Oxford (1889)

Awards & Honours:

1928: Honorary Knight for Life, Loyal Knights of the Round Table, Fifth Rank

1927: Knighthood

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Picture of Sir Wilfred Grenfell, MD

Brought vital health care to Newfoundland’s isolated communities

Sir Wilfred Grenfell

An adventurer and selfless builder of health services in Newfoundland

When Dr. Wilfred Grenfell first arrived on the coast of Labrador in 1892, he was astonished by what he found in the remote fisherman community; with a population of 30,000 there was not a single medical doctor. Sir Grenfell quickly committed himself to improve the medical, economic and spiritual needs of the fishermen and their families. Eventually, he would build the region's first hospital and ultimately improve the social, health and economic status of those who populated the area.

Beyond his medical mission, Sir Grenfell also sought to improve social services and developed a small industry where none had existed before. This initiative enabled residents to sell homemade goods such as hooked rugs and knitted items in North American retailers.

Key Facts

Became the first doctor many of the fisherman in Newfoundland had ever seen

Shared the plight of the fisherman in many books and on speaking tours, raising significant support from philanthropists

Treated the sick with one of the first hospital ships, the "Strathcona", donated by Sir Donald Smith of Montreal

Created cottage industries and built orphanages, churches, and a dry dock

Many of the early “Grenfell rugs” are considered historic works of art and displayed in Canadian art galleries and museums

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

From its humble beginnings, the Grenfell Mission eventually led to a medical system that spanned the entire province. Today, the Labrador-Grenfell Health Authority and the International Grenfell Association continue Grenfell’s missions to deliver medical and social services, and distribute financial grants and scholarships for medical education, respectively. As a private foundation, the International Grenfell Association also supports not-for-profit organizations that improve the health and social welfare of the people who live in coastal Newfoundland and Labrador.

Picture of Sir Wilfred Grenfell, MD


  • Sir Wilfred Grrenfell posthumously inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    London, Ontario

  • Grenfell Museum

    Dr. Grenfell’s fortitude, kindness and aptitudes made him a local hero

    The Early Days - Health Care Pioneers

    His extraordinary accomplishments, work and legacy are commemorated in his original St. Anthony home, which was purchased by the Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell Historical Society in 1978 and converted into a Museum and Archives.

  • To facilitate industrial development, Dr. Grenfell established numerous co-operative stores and created a commerce for local handicraft

    The Early Days - Health Care Pioneers

    As a result, residents became less dependent on the seasonal fish industry and had alternate sources of income.

  • As the Grenfell Mission expanded and saw overwhelming success, Dr. Grenfell recognized the need for improved regulation and funding

    Leadership in Organizational Development

    He incorporated the Grenfell Mission to form the International Grenfell Association, which delivered health care and social services to the area and helped send students to prestigious colleges and universities.

  • Sir Wilfred Grenfell

    The Grenfell Mission started humbly on the deck of a docked missionary hospital ship, where Wilfred Grenfell offered medical treatments, as well as friendship and spiritual guidance

    Patient Care

    In 1900, Dr. Grenfell built the area’s first hospital in the town of St. Anthony, bringing the earliest permanent medical services to Northern Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Dr. Grenfell was sent on behalf of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen to investigate the conditions in the Labrador Fishery.

    He was astonished by the terrible living situation endured by the rural communities; ignored by the government and exploited by fish merchants, residents were poorly educated, economically unstable and lacked medical services.

  • The great surgeon, Sir Frederick Treves persuaded Grenfell to join the National Mission to Deep Sea Fisherman in the North Sea.

    The challenge of the Mission appealed to Grenfell so much that in 1890 he became its superintendent.

  • Wilfred Grenfell received his medical training at the London Hospital and MD from Oxford University.

    He was an unmotivated medical student until inspired by a tent evangelist to devote his restless energies to helping the less fortunate.


The purpose of this world is not to have and hold, but to serve.