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The Scottish Nation

MACNISH, ROBERT, LL.D., a popular writer, known in his lifetime as “The modern Pythagorean,” the son of a medical practitioner in Glasgow, was born in Henderson’s Court, Jamaica Street, of that city, February 15, 1802. He received the elements of his education partly in his native town, and partly at a classical academy at Hamilton, about eleven miles from it, and afterwards studied medicine. He obtained the degree of master of surgery at the early age of eighteen, when he became assistant to Dr. Henderson of Clyth at Caithness. He remained there for about eighteen months, and then went to Paris for a year, with the view of completing his medical studies. On his return to Glasgow in 1825, he became assistant to his father, having, the same year, obtained his diploma from the faculty of physicians and surgeons of Glasgow, when he gave in, as his inaugural thesis, ‘An Essay on the Anatomy of Drunkenness.’ Two years afterwards, that is, in 1827, this essay, extended and improved, was published at Glasgow, when it formed a thin octavo of 56 pages. It met with a very flattering reception from the public, and was still farther enlarged in subsequent editions. Translations of it have appeared in the German and French languages.

      Dr. Macnish’s earliest literary attempts were contributed to the ‘Inverness Journal,’ when he was in the north, and afterwards to the ‘Literary Melange,’ and ‘The Emmet,’ two Glasgow periodicals of humble pretensions. In 1822 he sent two contributions to Constable’s Edinburgh Magazine, the one entitled ‘Mac Vurich the Murderer,’ and the other ‘The Dream Confirmed,’ both founded on incidents which he had picked up in the Highlands. In 1826 he forwarded his first communication to ‘Blackwood’s Magazine,’ being a tale, entitled ‘The Metempsychosis.’ It appeared with the signature of ‘A Modern Pythagorean,’ the name affixed to all his after productions in that and other magazines. In 1827 he became acquainted with Dr. Moir of Musselburgh, afterwards his biographer.

      In 1830, Dr. Macnish published at Glasgow a treatise, entitled ‘The Philosophy of Sleep,’ which was equally well received with his former work, and also went through several editions. In 1834 appeared ‘The Book of Aphorisms,’ some of which had originally been contributed to Fraser’s Magazine. The same year he visited the continent, and in the following year he made a tour in Belgium and Holland, France, Switzerland, and Germany.

      His last publication was a small treatise in 1835, entitled an ‘Introduction to Phrenology,’ to which science he had become a convert. From Hamilton college, United States, he, at this time, received the degree of LL.D. He died of typhus fever, January 16, 1837, in his 35th year. His Tales, Essays, and Sketches, were published at Edinburgh, in two volumes, in 1838, under the title of the ‘Modern Pythagorean,’ with a memoir of the author, by his friend, Dr. Moir of Musselburgh, the Delta of Blackwood’s Magazine.

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