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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part I - Scots in the Settlement and Development of The United States
Scots in Medicine and Surgery


THE ancient medical schools connected with the Scottish Universities have produced many of the most famous physicians the world has known, and their influence and traditions have gone out with the Scot to every country where he has, settled. In no profession has the Scot been more successful than as a physician, and in no country has he won more notable honours than in America.

Lionel Chalmers, M.D., was born at Campbeltown, Argyllshire, about 1715, and was brought in childhood to Carolina. He studied medicine and after graduation practised his profession for more than forty years. He was the author of a number of medical works, the most important of which was An Account of the Weather and Diseases of South Carolina, published in two volumes in London in 1776. The work was also translated into German and published in 1796.

Dr. John Moultrie, father of the distinguished Revolutionary patriot, General William Moultrie, was a native of Culross, and the first citizen of South Carolina to attain the degree of M.D. from the University of Edinburgh, where in 1749 he defended his thesis Dissertatio Medica inauguralis, de Febre maligna bilosa Americae. He came to this country in 1733 and settled in Charleston, where he died in 1773. He was one of the founders of

the St. Andrew’s Society of Charleston, and President in 1760. He subsequently became Governor of East Florida. Another son was also named John. A cousin of this second John, James Moultrie (died 1869), became a distinguished physician, President of the State Medical Society, professor of physiology, and in 1851 elected President of the American Medical Association.

Dr. John Lining, born in Dundee in 1708, studied medicine in the University of Edinburgh. He settled in Charleston in 1730, and soon built up a prosperous practice which he held for upwards of thirty years. To the Royal Society of London he communicated meteorological observations carried out at Charleston between 1738-1740 and in 1742, which were the first ever published relating to the colonies. He was also one of the first experimenters in electricity, and in 1753 published his History of the Yellow Fever (Charleston, 1753), the first description of the disease published in America.

Another physician who acquired distinction in America was Dr. Alexander Garden, who was born in Scotland about 1728, a son of the Rev. Alexander Garden of Birse, Aberdeenshire. Dr. Garden was educated in Aberdeen University and received his medical training from the celebrated Dr. John Gregory. About the middle of the eighteenth century he emigrated to South Carolina, where be took up the study of botany. He was described by Ramsay (History of South Carolina, 1809) as a man of wide culture, well acquainted with the classics, French, Italian, belles-lettres, mathematics, and whenever the duties of his profession admitted, directing all his time to natural history and botany. Linnaeus, with whom he corresponded in Latin, gave his name to the genus Gardenia, in his honour. Dr. Garden also introduced, about 1764, the use of pink-root as a vermifuge, and published an account of its properties. He also contributed to the Philosophical Transactions of London. About 1772 he was elected a F.R.S. of London, and on his return to Europe in 1783 was appointed one of its council and afterwards one of its vice-presidents. For his adherence to the mother-country during the Revolution his property in Carolina was confiscated, but was afterwards returned to his son. He died in London, April 15, 1791.

Dr. James Craik, born in Scotland in 1731, came to Virginia early in life. He accompanied Washington in an expedition against the French and Indians in 1754, and also served as surgeon under General Braddock in the following year. At the siege of Yorktown he was director-general of the hospital, and after the war became the family physician of Washington, who greatly esteemed him, and referred to him as "my compatriot in arms, my old and intimate friend." He died in 1814.

Hugh Williamson (1735-1819), M.D., LL.D., born in Philadelphia, of Scottish descent, was educated in Philadelphia, Edinburgh, and in Holland. On his return to America he was appointed a surgeon in the Revolutionary army. He afterwards represented North Carolina in Congress for several years with great ability, and was a delegate to the convention that framed the Federal Constitution, of which he was a stanch advocate. He published Observations on the Climate of America (1811), a History of North Carolina in three volumes, and other works.

David Ramsay (1749-1815), the historian of the American Revolution, was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, of Ulster-Scot parentage. He was graduated in 1765 at Princeton and studied medicine at Philadelphia under the celebrated Dr. Benjamin Rush. He was a zealous advocate of American Independence and served in the army as a surgeon. He was also a member of the legislature of South Carolina, to which State he had moved shortly after his graduation, and in 1782 was elected a member of the Continental Congress. In addition to his History of the Revolution (1790), he published in 1785 a History of the Revolution in south Carolina, a Life of Washington, in 1801, and several other works.

Dr. Thomas Graeme was born at Balgowan in Perthshire, October 20, 1688, and in 1717 accompanied to Philadelphia Colonel William Keith, who had been appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania. In 1719 Dr. Graeme was appointed Collector of the Port, and in 1725 was sworn into the Governor’s council and became a Master in Chancery. He was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1731, an office which he held till 1750. His eminence as a physician was attested by Dr. Benjamin Rush, who stated that Dr. Graeme "for nearly half a century maintained the front rank in his profession." He was also one of the founders and the first President of the St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia (1749) ; and a member of the American Philosophical Society. Dr. Graeme died at his beautiful country seat, "Graeme Park," September 4. 1772. His daughter, Elizabeth (Mrs. Ferguson), was an accomplished woman, and one of the earliest woman writers of poetry in America. Among her woiks was a paraphrase of the Book of Psalms (1766-1768), the manuscript of which is in the Historical Society of Philadelphia.

Dr. David Olyphant was born near Perth, Scotland, in 1720. He was a surgeon at the battle of Culloden, April 16, 1746, shortly afterward escaping to Charlestown, South Carolina, where, and in St. George, Dorchester, he lived for many years practising his profession and rising in it to the h.ighest eminence. He was a member with Hon. John Rutledge and others of the Provincial Congress and the Legislative Council of February, 1776; and Director-General of Southern Hospitals during the Revolution. He removed to Newport, R. I., in 1785, where he continued in the practice of medicine until his death in 1804. An extended biography will be found elsewhere in this work.

Dr. Adam Thomson came from Scotland to Upper Marlborough, Maryland, a graduate of Edinburgh University, and is noted as the first physician in America to practice innoculation for the prevention of smallpox. His method, which he introduced as early as 1738, became the accepted practice in both America and Great Britain. Dr. Thomson was one of the founders of the St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia in 1749, and Vice-President, 1751; in 1755 he removed to New York, where he interested himself in the founding of the New York St. Andrew’s Society. He was its first Vice-President, 1756-1757, and its second President, 1757-1758. Dr. Thomson died September, 1767.

Dr. Peter Middleton, Dr. Thomson's friend and an executor of his estate, was also born in Scotland, and was educated at Edinburgh. He died in 1781. Dr. Middleton was one of the most noted practitioners of his day. In 1750 he assisted Dr. Bard in making the first dissection in this country, and in 1767 established a medical school in New York which was afterward incorporated with King’s College (now Columbia University). He was the eighth President of the New York St. Andrew’s Society, 1767-1770.

Dr. James Tillary (1756-1818), another noted New York physician of Colonial times, was born in Scotland. He was President of the St. Andrew’s Society 1814-1818. During the epidemics of yellow fever in 1795 and 1798, he remained in the city, rendering great service to rich and poor alike. He was a graduate of the Edinburgh University and a member of the Royal Medical and Physical Society of Edinburgh.

Dr. Lawrence Turnbull (1821-1900), the great aural surgeon, for many years connected with Jefferson Medical College and Howard Hospital, Philadelphia, was a native of Shotts, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He served with distinction in the Civil War and was the author of many medical books.

His friend and preceptor, Dr. John Kearsley Mitchell (1796-1858), was born in Virginia, the son of Dr. Alexander Mitchell, a native of A.yrshire, Scotland. At the age of fourteen he was sent by his father to the academy at Ayr, and was educated there and at the University of Edinburgh, returning to America in 1816. As a physician and teacher, Dr. Mitchell was eminently successful. He was twice honoured by the municipality for his services in time of pestilence.

His son, Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell (born February 15, 1829; died January 4, 1914), was the distinguished physician and man of letters. He was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and in 1850 received his degree of M.D. from Jefferson Medical College, and his eminence in his profession was recognized by degrees and honours from the University of Bologna, Harvard, Edinburgh University, Princeton, Toronto and many other institutions and societies. He made an exhaustive study of the diseases of the nervous system and their treatment, of the poisons of serpents and numerous medical subjects. In 1880 he began the publication of tales, essays and poems that were to make him as famous as a writer as a physician. His first long novel, Hugh Wynne, Free Quaker, published in 1897, when he was sixty-eight years old, assured his literary success; and the many books that followed from his pen found an ever increasing number of readers the world over.

Alexander Johnston Chalmers Skene, one of America's foremost surgeons, was born at Fyvie, in June, 1837. He received his university education in Aberdeen and there also laid the foundations of his medical knowledge. On coming to the United States he continued his medical studies at the University of Michigan and later at Long Island College Hospital, from which institution he was graduated in 1863. During the Civil War he served for a year as surgeon in the Union army, and in 1864 settled in Brooklyn as a practicing physician. He was appointed professor of gynecology in the Post Graduate Medical School of New York. He performed the first successful operation of gastro-elytrotomy that is recorded, and also that of craniotomy. Surgical science is also indebted to him for a number of important instruments, which he invented for special operations. He also contributed many articles on medical subjects to the professional journals, as well as writing two or three independent works. His volume on the diseases of women is considered one of the best textbooks ever published.

Of the many surgeons and physicians of Scottish descent among the foremost are: Dr. Ephraim McDowell (1771-1830), born in Virginia, son of the noted jurist, Samuel McDowell. Dr. McDowell settled in Danville, Kentucky, and is conceded to have been the greatest surgeon in the Southwest after 1785. He received many honours from the University of Maryland, Philadelphia Medical Society, and others. His skill in operative surgery won him a reputation in Europe as well as America.

Dr. Frank Hastings Hamilton (1813-1886), the famous surgeon and inventor of many surgical appliances, was a native of Vermont. He played a notable part in the hospital service during the Civil War, afterward returning to his work at Bellevue Hospital, New York City. He was one of the surgeons called in consultation at the time of the shooting of President Garfield.

Dr. Daniel Hayes Agnew (1818-1892), professor of surgery in the University of Pennsylvania, is also widely known by his surgical inventions and writings.

John Fox Hammond (1821-1886), a native of South Carolina, was famous in the medical department in the Civil War.


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