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Significant Scots
James Keill


KEILL, JAMES, a physician and philosopher of eminence, the younger brother of the celebrated person whose memoir follows this in alphabetical order, was born in Scotland, on the 27th of March, 1673. He received his early education in Edinburgh, afterwards studying the sciences and languages at Leyden and other continental universities. On his return to Britain, he applied himself assiduously to the acquisition of a knowledge of anatomy, studying the science practically, by constant attendance at the dissecting rooms. Having accustomed himself to deliver his opinions on anatomy privately to his friends, he at last undertook public tuition, and delivered, with considerable applause, lectures on anatomy, at Oxford and Cambridge, by the latter of which universities he was presented with the degree of doctor of medicine. In 1698, he translated from the French, Lemery’s Course of Chemistry, and soon after published in the Philosophical Transactions "An account of the death and dissection of John Bayles of Northampton, reputed to have been one hundred and thirty years old." To No. 361 of the same journal, he gave "De viribus cordis epistola." In 1708, he published "An account of animal secretion, the quantity of blood in the human body, and muscular motion." On the subject of animal secretion, and the manner in which the fluids of the animal body are separated from the blood, he undertakes to show: 1. How they are formed in the blood before they come to the place appointed for secretion; 2. In what manner they are separated from the blood by the glands. Upon the former head he shows, that the blood consists of a simple fluid, in which swim corpuscles of various figures and magnitudes, and endued with different degrees of attractive force. Hence he concludes, that of such particles as the blood consists of, must the fluids be composed, which are drawn from it. This he proceeds to show to be not only possible, but actually so in several secretions. From this principle, that the blood consists of corpuscles of various figures and magnitudes, and endued with various degrees of attractive power, &c., he attempts to show the force of the air upon the blood, in breathing, in order to demonstrate that by the pressure of the air, the cohesion of the globules of the blood is dissolved. After this, he shows how the union of the attractive particles is hindered near the heart, and that the particles which unite first, after the blood is thrown out of the great artery, must be such as have the strongest attractive force; and that such as have the least, must unite last; and all the intermediate ones according to their respective attractive power." [Martin’s Biographia Philosophica, 460.] Besides this work, Keill published "Anatomy of the Human Body," for the use of his pupils, and in 1717, " Essays on several parts of the Human Economy." He appears to have given up public tuition, and some time previously to the publication of his last work, to have established himself as a practising physician at Northampton, where he gained considerable fortune and reputation, and remained till his death, which took place in July 16, 1719, from a cancer in his mouth. He was buried in the church of St Giles, where his brother John, to whom he left his property, erected a handsome monument to his memory.


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