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Duncan Chisholm MacDonald was born in River Station, Nova Scotia, on 9 February 1896, the son of John R. and Mary Isabel MacDonald. In 1916, after completing his first year of engineering studies at St. Francis Xavier College, he enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, serving as a gunner in the 8th Canadian Siege Battery in England and France from 1916-1918. On his return from the war he attended medical school at Dalhousie University, followed by graduate studies in London, England. After a long career in medicine in small-town Saskatchewan, he retired to Saskatoon, where he was married in 1973 and died in 1976.