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Significant Scots
William Cruickshanks


CRUICKSHANKS, WILLIAM, F.R.S. an eminent surgeon in London, the assistant, partner, and successor of the famous Dr. William Hunter of the Windmill Street Anatomical School, was the son of an officer in the excise, and was born at Edinburgh in the year 1745. After completing the elementary branches of his education at the schools of Edinburgh, he commenced the study of divinity at that university; but he soon forsook his clerical studies and directed his attention to medicine. With a view to that profession, he removed to Glasgow, where he went through a complete course of medical education at the university. Having devoted eight years of his life to assiduous study, he obtained, through the recommendation of Dr. Pitcairn, the situation of librarian to Dr. William Hunter of London; and so highly did that great man estimate his talents, that he soon after appointed him his assistant, and ultimately raised him to the honour of being his partner, in superintending his establishment in Windmill Street. On the death of Dr. Hunter in the year 1783, the students of that institution thought so favourably of Mr. Cruickshanks' professional acquirements, that they presented an address to him, and to the late Dr. Baillie, requesting that they might assume the superintendence of the school; which they did.

Mr. Cruickshanks is known to the world by his medical publications; and as a teacher and writer he acquired a high reputation for his knowledge of anatomy and physiology. In the year 1786, he published his principal work " The Anatomy of the absorbent vessels of the Human Body," a production of acknowledged merit, which has been translated into several languages. He also wrote an ingenious paper on the nerves of living animals, which establishes the important fact of the regeneration of mutilated nerves. This paper, however, although read before the Royal Society, was not published in the transactions of that body until several years afterwards. This delay was owing to the interference of Sir John Pringle, who conceived that Mr. Cruickshanks had controverted some of the opinions of the great HaIler. In the year 1797, Mr. Cruickshanks was elected fellow of the Royal Society. In 1799, he made his experiments on insensible perspiration, which he added to his work on the absorbent vessels. He had suffered for many years from acute pain in the head, and although warned that this pain arose from extravasated blood settled upon the sensorium, and that the greatest abstinence in his regimen was indispensable in order to prevent fatal consequences, yet, regardless of this warning, he continued to live freely; and as had been foreseen, he was cut off suddenly in the year 1800, in the 55th year of his age. With much personal and intellectual vanity, Mr. Cruickshanks was an excellent anatomist and able physiologist, and a cool and skilful surgeon. He was generous and truly benevolent literally going about doing good. He was one of the medical men who had the melancholy honour of attending Dr. Samuel Johnson in his last illness. In 1773, he was married to a lady from Dundee, who died in the year 1795, by whom he had four daughters.


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