an eminent physiological writer, was the fifteenth child and seventh
son of George Comb or Combe, brewer at Livingston’s Yards, (a small
property lying under the south-west angle of Edinburgh castle) and
Marion Newton, of the Newtons of Curriehill, his wife, and was born
there on 27th October 1797. He received the elementary part
of his education under a Mr. Brown, one of the town’s teachers, who
kept a school in Frederick street, and afterwards went to the high
school. In October 1810 he entered the university of Edinburgh, and
attended the Greek and Latin classes for the next two college
sessions. In 1812 he was bound apprentice to Mr. Henry Johnston,
surgeon in Edinburgh, and after attending the medical classes passed
surgeon in 1817. He subsequently pursued his studies at Paris, and,
after a visit to Switzerland and Lombardy, returned to Edinburgh,
where, on 22d February 1820, he was one of the four individuals who
founded the Phrenological Society, his brother, George Combe, being
another. He subsequently, on account of his health, went to Italy, and
there and in France remained for about two years. He returned to
Edinburgh in the summer of 1822, and soon after entered upon practice.
The first of his printed essays was one “on the effects of injuries of
the brain upon the manifestations of the mind,” which was read before
the Phrenological Society, and subsequently published in their
Transactions. Subsequently he contributed several essays to the
Phrenological Journal, as well as to the British and Foreign Medical
Review. Having become a member of the Royal Medical Society of
Edinburgh, an essay on phrenology written by him, was read before that
society, in November 1823, and gave rise to some unpleasant discussion
at the time, the opposition to that science being very strongly shown
by the members on the occasion. In 1825 he took the degree of M.D. in
reply to an able and eloquent article of Mr. Jeffrey in the Edinburgh
Review against phrenology, Dr. Combe in the following year furnished
an essay “on Size as a measure of power” to the Phrenological Journal.
In 1831 he published a work on mental derangement, which received the
approbation of the profession and had a rapid sale. In the same year,
in consequence of a second attack of pulmonary disease, he proceeded
to Paris, and thence by Marseilles to Naples, and after visiting Rome,
he returned to Edinburgh and resumed practice. In 1834 appeared his
principal work, ‘On Physiology applied to health and education,’ In
January 1836, on the recommendation of Dr. (afterwards Sir James)
Clark, he was appointed physician to the king of the Belgians, but in
a few months was obliged to resign his appointment from bad health. He
dedicated his work on Physiology to his majesty King Leopold, and in
March 1838, he was appointed one of the physicians extraordinary for
the queen in Scotland, an office of honour, but without duties or
emolument. Owing to increased bad health he subsequently made two
voyages to Madeira, where he resided for some time. In April 1847 he
sailed for New York, and after visiting Philadelphia he returned home
in the subsequent June, and died at Gorgie Mill, near Edinburgh, 9th
August of that year. His Life and Correspondence by his brother,
George Combe, was published at Edinburgh in 1850, with a portrait.
Principles of Physiology applied to the preservation of health, and to
the improvement of physical and mental education. Edin. 1834. 13th
edition, 1850, post 8vo.
Physiology of Digestion considered with relation to the principles of
Dietetics. Edin. 1836. Ninth edition; edited and adapted to the
present state of physiological and chemical science by James Coxe,
M.D., crown, 8vo, 1850.
on the Physiological and Moral Management of Infancy; being a
practical exposition of the principles of infant training. Edin. 1839.
7th edition, crown 8vo, 1850.
and Observations on the Gastric Juice and Physiology of Digestion; by
William Beaumont, M.D., Surgeon to the United States army. Reprinted
with Notes by Andrew Combe, M.D., 1 vol. post 8vo. Edin.
its Nature and Uses. An Address to the Students of Anderson’s
University, at the opening of Dr. Weir’s first course of Lectures on
Phrenology in that Institution, 8vo.