Surgeon Colonel James Young Donaldson became a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1859 and took the Medical Doctorate of Marischal College, Aberdeen in the same year. He joined the Army Medical Department as an assistant surgeon on 13 June 1859.
He published a paper on the
diagnosis and causation of faeco-malarial fevers (Army Medical Department Report (1876) vol 18 and a book on
tropical hyperpyrexia (Thacker, Spink, and Co., Calcutta. 1882.). In his book on sun stroke or heat apoplexy, Donaldson recommended nursing the patient naked on his side on a bed with ice placed on his head and water poured on his back to keep him cool.
Service Record — James Young Donaldson
13 June 1859 Appointed Staff Assistant Surgeon.
1859–1860 On duty at Great Yarmouth.
1860–1862 On duty at Gibraltar.
1 Apr 1862 Exchanged with Assistant Surgeon Thomas Michael O'Brien 100th (Prince of Wales's Royal Canadians) Regiment of Foot.
Malta 13 Oct 1863 Arrived from Gibraltar.
Malta 1864 On duty with his regiment.
Malta 25 Nov 1865 Returned to England.
10 Nov 1865 Promoted Staff Assistant Surgeon vice Staff Assistant Surgeon James Thompson appointed to the 100th Foot.
1865–1866 On duty at Netley.
1867 On duty at Edinburgh.
1868–1870 On duty in the West Indies.
1871–1872 On duty at Netley.
1872–1873 On duty at Gibraltar.
1 Mar 1873 Promoted surgeon.
Malta 21 June 1873 Arrived from Gibraltar.
Malta 1874 On garrison duty.
Malta 6 Jan 1875 Promoted Surgeon-Major.
Malta 1876 On garrison duty.
Malta 13 Apr 1877 Moved from Malta to Edinburgh.
1877–1880 On duty at Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Mar 1880 Moved to Bengal.
1880–1881 On duty in Bengal.
24 June 1885 Promoted Brigade Surgeon on the retirement of Brigade Surgeon Nathaniel Norris.
Jan 1886 Moved from Bengal to Shorncliffe.
Mar 1888 Moved from Shorncliffe to Madras.
Apr 1888 Brigade Surgeon J Y Donaldson serving in the Madras command, was appointed Senior Medical Officer, Bellary Station Hospital.
10 Dec 1890 Promoted Deputy Surgeon General, ranking as Colonel, on the retirement of Deputy Surgeon General James Landale.
23 Dec 1893 Placed on the retired list. The vacancy that arose from his retirement was filled by Brigade Surgeon Lieutenant Colonel Henry S Muir who was promoted Surgeon Colonel.
7 July 1900 Died at Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire.