William Buchan (physician)

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William Buchan
William Buchan
William Buchan
Born 1729 (1729)
Died 1805 (1806) (aged 76)
Occupation Scottish physician

William Buchan (1729–1805) was a Scottish physician.

Life and career[edit]

Buchan was born at Ancrum, in Roxburgshire in 1729. He attended Edinburgh University as a Divinity student, however, as he primarily took medical classes, he entered a medical practice in Yorkshire and became a physician with Foundling Hospital, where his salary was L42/year, but not including boarding for him and his horse. His dissertation for his MD, in 1761, was 'On the Preservation of Infant Life'.[1] He practiced as a physician at Edinburgh from 1766 to 1778, and relocated his practice to London in 1778.

Buchan wrote the first edition of his Domestic medicine (1769), which sold for only 6 shillings. It was not the first of its kind, following in the footsteps of other educated physicians who wrote for the lay public. In the mid-1500s, Sir Thomas Elyot published Castel of Helthe. In the 17th century other such books appeared, for example as Nicholas Culpeper's The English Physician & The Complete Herbal. George Hartman, Humphrey Brooke, and Owen Wood were also writing on learned medicine for the public. In the 1700s the French physician Samuel Auguste David Tissot wrote his book Avis au Peuple sur sa Sante, and Paul Dube’s Poor Man’s Physician and Surgeon became widely read as well. But Buchan's Domestic Medicine was an immensely popular work, selling 80,000 copies and being translated into many European languages.

In it Buchan argued against regular bathing, taking the position that human perspiration is a potent germ inhibitor.".[2] It was thought to be important to keep those healthy oils in your skin, thereby giving a person a 'healthy glow'.

Quickly, his books became popular in public households in England, Scotland, New England and the US Colonies. Although this first edition originally showed up in Edinburgh, it was soon reprinted in London, by 1774 – in Philadelphia, by 1800 – in Hartford and Boston, by 1807 – in Charleston, SC, by 1828 – in Exeter, NH, etc.

Other works include: Approximately 22 editions of Domestic Medicine, including:

  • "Domestic Medicine: or, a treatise on the prevention and cure of diseases by regimen and simple medicines. With an Appendix, containing a dispensatory for the use of private practitioners. " (1794)
  • "Domestic Medicine: or, The family physician: being an attempt to render the medical art more generally useful, by showing people what is in their own power, both with respect to the prevention and cure of diseases." (1802)
  • "Advice to mothers on the subject of their own health; and on the means of promoting the health, strength, and beauty of their offspring." (1803)


Buchan died in 1805. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dunn, Peter (2000). "Dr. William Buchan (1729–1805) and his Domestic Medicine". Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed 83: F71–F73. doi:10.1136/fn.83.1.F71. 
  2. ^ Kacirk, Jeffrey (1997). Forgotten English. New York: William Morrow & Co. ISBN 0-688-15018-7. 

Moore, Adam G.N. (2006) ''How many people today would recognize the name and face of Dr. William Buchan? How many people today would recognize the name and face of Dr. William Buchan?' Countway Library. Harvard.