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Significant Scots
Sir Alexander Dick


DICK, SIR ALEXANDER, Bart., of Prestonfield, near Edinburgh, was born on the 23d of October, 1703. He was the third son of Sir William Cunningham of Caprington, by dame Janet, daughter and heiress of Sir James Dick of Prestonfield. While his two elder brothers were to succeed to ample fortunes, one from the father, and the other from the mother, Alexander was left in a great measure dependent on his own exertions. He accordingly chose the profession of medicine; and after acquiring the preliminary branches of his profession in Edinburgh, proceeded to Leyden, where he pursued his medical studies under the famous Dr Boerhaave. On the 31st of August, 1725, he obtained the degree of doctor of medicine from the university of Leyden; on which occasion he published his inaugural dissertation "De Epilepsia," which did him much credit. Soon after this, he returned home, when he received, from the university of St Andrews, a second diploma as doctor of medicine, bearing date the 23d of January, 1727. On the 7th November of the same year, he was admitted a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

Dr Cunningham, for he still bore the name of his father, soon after these distinctions had been conferred on him by his countrymen, undertook a tour through Europe.

His immediately elder brother, Sir William Dick, having died without issue, Dr Cunningham succeeded, in terms of the entail, to the estate and name of his mother, and the baronetcy of his brother, Sir William; whereupon he left Pembrokeshire and took up his residence at Prestonfield. Although he had now determined to discontinue the practice of his profession, still he took an active interest in promoting the study and knowledge of medicine in Scotland. In the year 1756, he was unanimously chosen president of the college of physicians of Edinburgh. As a testimony of the high sense which his professional brethren entertained of his services, a portrait of him was, by a unanimous vote, hung up in their hall.

Sir Alexander Dick did not confine his patriotic exertions to the advancement of his own profession, but took an active share in every undertaking which he conceived likely to prove beneficial to the city of Edinburgh or its neighbourhood. In particular, the citizens were much indebted to him for the improvements which he effected in the highways around the metropolis.

Sir Alexander was twice married—in April, 1736, to his cousin Janet, daughter of Alexander Dick, merchant in Edinburgh, by whom he had five children, but two daughters only survived him; and in March, 1762, he married Mary, daughter of David Butler of Pembrokeshire, by whom he had seven children. Three sons and three daughters of the latter marriage survived him. Having attained the 83d year of his age, with faculties unimpaired, he died on the l0th of November, 1785; and his death, notwithstanding the very advanced age he had reached, was generally lamented as a loss to society. He was of a kind and amiable character, and remarkable for the mildness and sweetness of his disposition, and for the unwearied zeal and activity with which he promoted the advancement of medical knowledge in Scotland, as well as the improvement and welfare of his native city.


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