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The Scottish Nation

ALSTON, CHARLES, an eminent physician and lecturer on botany, was born in Lanarkshire in 1683, and first studied at the university of Glasgow. While a student there, he had the good fortune to be taken under the patronage of the duchess of Hamilton, and spent his early years at Hamilton palace. By the assistance of her grace he was enabled to accomplish the design of devoting himself to the medical profession, and in the year 1716 he went, with the celebrated Dr. Alexander Monro, to Leyden; where, after studying for three years under the celebrated Boerhaave, he took his degree of M.D. On his return he commenced practice in Edinburgh, and, by the interest of the duke of Hamilton, heritable keeper of Holyrood house, he obtained the sinecure office of king’s botanist. He began his lectures on botany in 1720, in the king’s garden at Holyrood house, which he enriched by large collections he had made in Holland. In 1738 he was chosen to succeed Professor Preston, in the chair of Botany and Materia Medica united, in the university of Edinburgh; and in conjunction with Dr. Monro, Dr. Rutherford, Dr. Sinclair, and Dr. Plummer, laid the foundation of the high character since enjoyed by Edinburgh as a school of medical science. In 1740, for the assistance of his pupils, he published an Index of the plants demonstrated to them in the Edinburgh medical garden. He continued to lecture till his death on the 22d of November 1760. In the fifth volume of the Edinburgh Medical Essays he published a short paper on the efficacy of the powder of tin in destroying or expelling worms from the bowels. He was the author of several botanical works, the principal of which is entitled ‘ Tirocinium Botanicum Edinburgeuse,’ 1753. In the same year one of his papers, in which he endeavoured to overturn the Linnaean doctrine of the sexual system of plants, was published in the first volume of the ‘Edinburgh Physical and Literary Essays.’ He also engaged in a controversy with Dr. Whytt about quicklime; but the most valuable of all his works are his ‘Lectures on the Materia Medica,’ which appeared in two volumes 4to in 1770, edited by his friend and successor in the professor’s chair, Dr. John Hope.

In botany a genus of the Polyandria monogynia class and order is called Alstonia after Dr. Alston. The following is a list of Dr. Alston’s works:

Index Plantarum in Horto Medico Edinburgensi. Edin. 1740, 8vo.
Index Medicamentorum simpilcium triplex. Edin. 1752, 12mo.
Dissertations on Quick Lime and Lime Water. Edin. 1752, 12mo. The 2d edition, with additions. 1754, 8vo.
Tyrocinium Botanicum Edinburgense. Edin. 1753, 8vo. 1765, 8vo.
Dissertation on Botany, translated from the Latin by a Physician. Edin. 1754, 8vo, perhaps a translation of the Tyrocinium.
A second Dissertation on Quick Lime and Lime Water. Edin. 1755, 12mo.
A third Dissertation on Quick Lime and Lime Water. Edin. 1757, 8vo.
Lectures on the Materia Medica, containing the Natural History of Drugs, their Virtues and Doses; also Directions for the Study of the Materia Medics, and an Appendix on the Method of Prescribing. Lond. 1770, 2 vols. 4to, edited by Dr. Hope.
Powder of Tin, an Anthelmentic Medicine. Med. Ess. v. p. 89, 1736.
Dissertation on Opium. Ib. p. 110, 1736.
Case of Extravasated Blood in the Pericardium. Ib. v. p. 609.
A Dissertation on the Sexes of Plants. Ess. Phys. and Lit. p. 205, 1754.
Two Letters on Lime and Lime Water. Phil. Trans. 1751, Abr. x. p. 204.

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