Robley Dunglison

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Robley Dunglison
Robley Dunglison.jpg
Born 4 January 1798
Keswick, Cumbria, England
Died 1 April 1869 (aged 71)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Occupation Physician
Spouse(s) Harriette Leadam

Robley Dunglison (4 January 1798 – 1 April 1869) was an English physician who moved to America to join the first faculty of the University of Virginia. He was personal physician to Thomas Jefferson and considered the "Father of American Physiology".[1][2]


Robley Dunglison was born in Keswick, Cumbria, England. He studied medicine in London, Edinburgh, and Paris. He obtained his M. D. from the University of Erlangen, Germany, in 1823 [3]

In 1824, Thomas Jefferson and the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia commissioned Francis Walker Gilmer to find professors in England for his new University. Gilmer offered the anatomy and medicine professorship to Dunglison.[4]

While at UVA, Dunglison published his landmark text Human Physiology (1832), which established his reputation as the “Father of American Physiology.” [5]

In 1832, Dunglison moved to the University of Maryland. Three years later Dunglison became Chair of the Institutes of Medicine and Medical Jurisprudence at the Jefferson Medical College (JMC) in Philadelphia, where he spent the rest of his career.

Marriage and children[edit]

Robley Dunglison

Dunglison's offer to become professor of anatomy and medicine at the University of Virginia allowed him to marry Miss Harriette Leadam, whom he had been courting.[6] They were married October 4, 1824, and left England for Virginia at the end of month. They had seven children:[7]

  • Harriette Elizabeth 1825 – 1841
  • John Robley 1826 – ?
  • a son, born in 1828, died of bronchitis at 11 months
  • William Leadam 1832 – ?
  • Richard James 1834 – 1901. Received MD at JMC in 1856. Editor of First American Edition of Gray's Anatomy in 1859[8]
  • Thomas Randolph 1837 – ?
  • Emma Mary 1840 – ?

Huntington's Disease[edit]

One of Dunglison's recently graduated students at Jefferson Medical College, Charles Oscar Waters, provided his professor with a description of the "magrums" (a folk name for what is now called Huntington's disease), which Waters knew from his travels in Westchester County, New York. Although he had never seen a case, Dunglison included a description of the disease in his 1842 textbook The Practice of Medicine. Waters's account of the disease was one of the first to note that the disease is hereditary, "within the third generation at farthest." Another of Dunglison's students at Jefferson, Charles R. Gorman, wrote his thesis on the magrums as well.[9]


Published works[edit]

  • 1824 Commentaries on Diseases of the Stomach and Bowels of Children
  • 1832 Human Physiology
  • 1833 A New Dictionary of Medical Science and Literature. The 2nd (1839), 3rd (1842), and 5th (1845) editions added "Medical Lexicon" to the title page.
  • 1837 The Medical Student; or, Aids to the Study of Medicine
  • 1876 A Dictionary of Medical Science....[10] A new edition of the New Dictionary of 1833.


  1. ^ Topper, Joby (2005). / University of Virginia, Professor and Physician: Robley Dunglison, M.D..
  2. ^ DUNGLISON, ROBLEY, (1798–1869).
  3. ^ Radbill, Samuel X., ed. (1963) The Autobiographical Ana of Robley Dunglison, M.D. American Philosophical Society.
  4. ^ Bruce, Philip Alexander (1921). History of the University of Virginia: The Lengthening Shadow of One Man. I. New York: Macmillan. pp. 342, 371. 
  5. ^ The National cyclopaedia of American Biography. 10. New York: James T. White and Co. 1909. p. 270. 
  6. ^ Hickman, Ellen C. "Dunglison, Robley (1798–1869)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 2016-05-04. 
  7. ^ Radbill, pp. 4–9
  8. ^ Gray's Anatomy: The Jefferson Years
  9. ^ Wexler, Alice; Nancy Wexler (2008). The Woman Who Walked Into the Sea. Huntington's and the Making of a Genetic Disease. Yale University Press. p. 288. ISBN 978-0-300-10502-5. 
  10. ^ Dunglison, Robley; Richard James Dunglison (1876). A Dictionary of Medical Science; Containing a Concise Explanation of the Various Subjects and Terms of Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Hygiene, Therapeutics, Medical Chemistry, Pharmacology, Pharmacy, Surgery, Obstetrics, Medical Jurisprudence, and Dentistry; Notices of Climate, and of Mineral Waters; Formulae for Officinal, Empirical, and Dietetic Preparations; with the Accentuation and Etymology of the Terms, and the French and Other Synonyms. Churchill. pp. 1131 pages. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 


  • Dorsey, John M., ed. (1960) The Jefferson-Dunglison Letters. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.

External links[edit]