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The Scottish Nation

COMBE, ANDREW, M.D., 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.

      Dr. Combe’s works are:

      The 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.

      The 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.

      A Treatise 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.

      Experiments 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.

      Phrenology; 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.


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