John Burns (surgeon)

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John Burns

John Burns FRS, (13 November 1775 – 18 June 1850) was a Scottish surgeon.[1]

He was the eldest son of Elizabeth Stevenson and Rev. John Burns, who was the minister of the Barony Church until his death.

Burns became a visiting surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the proprietor of the College Street medical school. He was suspected in robbing graves to provide cadavres for dissecting studies. In 1799, he became Professor of Anatomy and Theory at Anderson's University, where he published several text books for students and became an international authority on abortion and midwifery.[1]

In 1815 he was appointed the first Regius Professor of Surgery at the University of Glasgow. He wrote several medical textbooks such as Principles of Midwifery (1809), as well as two religious tracts.[2]

Burns, the brother of two senior figures in the MacBrayne's and Cunard shipping businesses, was among fifty people who died when the G & J Burns paddle steamship Orion sank off Portpatrick in June 1850 on its way from Liverpool to Glasgow.[3]

He married Isabella, daughter of Rev. John Duncan of Alva and had two children. Their first child, John (born 1806) was a member of the 78th Highlanders and later Lieutenant-Colonel of the 2nd Royals and died in service at the Cape in 1853, unmarried. Their second son, Allan (born 1819), was a physician and died in 1843 by typhoid fever which he caught from a patient.


  • "Burns, John" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  • The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry, John Guthrie Smith and John Oswald Mitchell, 1878. This title on Glasgow Digital Library
  1. ^ a b John Burns. Glasgow University
  2. ^ "Burns, John (1774-1850), surgeon". doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4092. Retrieved 2019-01-26.
  3. ^ Clyde Shipwrecks by Peter Moir and Ian Crawford (1997)