John Abercrombie (physician)

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John Abercrombie

John Abercrombie (physician).jpg
Born(1780-10-10)10 October 1780
Died14 November 1844(1844-11-14) (aged 64)
19 York Place, Edinburgh
OccupationPhysician, philosopher
19 York Place, Edinburgh
The grave of John Abercrombie, St Cuthberts, Edinburgh

John Abercrombie FRSE FRCSE FRCPE (10 October 1780 – 14 November 1844) was a Scottish physician and philosopher. The Chambers Biographical Dictionary says of him that after James Gregory's death, he was "recognized as the first consulting physician in Scotland".[1]

He was the official physician to Heriot's Hospital and Physician to the King for Scotland.[2]


He was the son of George Abercrombie, the minister of East Church, Aberdeen, he was educated at the Grammar School and Marischal College,[3] University of Aberdeen. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, and after graduating as MD in 1803 he settled down to practise in that city, where he soon attained a leading position.[4]

From 1816 he published various papers in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, which formed the basis of his more extensive works: Pathological and Practical Researches on Diseases of the Brain and Spinal Cord,[5] regarded as the first textbook in neuropathology, and Researches on the Diseases of the Intestinal Canal, Liver and other Viscera of the Abdomen, both published in 1828.[4] In 1821 he was elected to the Royal College of Surgeons. For his services as a physician and philanthropist he received many marks of distinction, including the Rectorship of Marischal College in 1835.[3]

In 1831 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, his proposer being Thomas Charles Hope, and served as Vice-President of the Society from 1835 to 1844.[6]

In 1831, whilst treating his colleague James Crawford Gregory, he contracted typhus, but appears to have recovered.[7]

He also found time for philosophical speculations, and in 1830 he published his Inquiries concerning the Intellectual Powers and the Investigation of Truth,[8][9] which was followed in 1833 by a sequel, The Philosophy of the Moral Feelings. Both works showed little originality of thought; they achieved wide popularity at the time of their publication,[4] but have long been superseded.

An elder of the Church of Scotland, he also wrote The man of faith: or the harmony of Christian faith and Christian character (1835),[10] which he pretended to distribute freely. In 1841, he was partially paralyzed, but was able to return to his practice of medicine.

He died at his home, 19 York Place, Edinburgh, in 1844 of a ruptured coronary artery.[6]

He is buried against the east wall of St Cuthberts Churchyard adjacent to the gateway into Princes Street Gardens.

A year after his death his Essays (1845) on Christian ethics were published.[11]

Artistic Recognition[edit]

A bust of Abercrombie by John Steell is held at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chambers Biographical Dictionary, ISBN 0-550-18022-2, p. 4
  2. ^ Monuments and monumental inscriptions in Scotland: The Grampian Society, 1871
  3. ^ a b  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCousin, John William (1910). "Abercrombie, John". A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons – via Wikisource.
  4. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abercrombie, John". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ Abercrombie, John (1828). Pathological and practical researches on diseases of the brain and the spinal cord. Edinburgh: Waugh and Innes.
  6. ^ a b "Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh" (PDF). Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
  7. ^ London Medical and Surgical Journal, January 1833
  8. ^ Abercrombie, John (1830). Inquiries concerning the intellectual powers and the investigation of truth. Edinburgh: Waugh and Innes.
  9. ^ "Review of Inquiries concerning the Intellectual Powers and the Investigation of Truth by John Abercrombie". The Quarterly Review. 45: 341–358. July 1831.
  10. ^ Abercrombie, John (1835) The man of faith: or the harmony of Christian faith and Christian character. New York: Van Nostrand & Dwight
  11. ^ Abercrombie, John (1845) Essays. New York: Harper
  12. ^

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Rector of Marischal College, Aberdeen
Succeeded by