William Buchan (physician)

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

William Buchan (1729 – 25 February 1805) was a Scottish physician and author. He is best known for his work Domestic Medicine: or, a Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines. One of the first of its kind, Domestic Medicine was a medical text intended for laypersons by providing detailed descriptions of the causes and prevention of diseases. Buchan’s goal was one of “laying medicine more open to mankind.” It was one of the most popular and long-lived books in Europe. There were over 80,000 copies and 19 editions sold in Buchan’s lifetime. It was translated into almost every major European language.

Life and career[edit]

William Buchan was born in Ancrum, Roxburgshire, in 1729. In his early academic years, he attended a local grammar school, but he had already taken a keen interest in medicine. Even at an early age with no formal training, he acted as one of the novice village physicians.[1] However, due to pressure from his family, upon entering Edinburgh University in 1749, he was enrolled in the school of divinity.[2] He soon shifted from his theological studies to studying mathematics and botany and, ultimately, medicine. He completed his studies in medicine in 1758 after approximately nine years at the university.[3]

Upon leaving the university, he started a small practice in rural Yorkshire before being appointed as a physician at the Foundling Hospital in Ackworth, Yorkshire, in 1759.[4] While at the Foundling Hospital, he worked frequently with children. In 1761, he wrote his first major work, his medical dissertation, On the Preservation of Infant Life. He argued that far too many infants were dying in Great Britain each year.[5] However, there was little response to his work.

Soon after, Buchan married a lady of the Dundas Clan, previously one of the most noble clans of Scotland.[6] Later that same year, Parliament stopped funding the Foundling Hospital, so Buchan moved and took up a practice in Sheffield from 1761 until 1766, when he returned to Edinburgh. While in Edinburgh, he ran his own practice and gave lectures in Newtonianism and natural philosophy. [7]

In 1769, William Buchan published his famous work, Domestic Medicine. The first edition sold for only six shillings and experienced great success. In total, Domestic Medicine sold over 80,000 copies, and 19 editions were printed translating it into almost every major European language.[8] In 1772, Buchan became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. The following year, the chair of the Institute of Medicine, John Gregory, passed away and Buchan announced his candidacy for the position but later lost the election. A few years later, he moved to London, where he practiced until his death on February 25, 1805. He was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey.

Works[edit]

Domestic Medicine

Published in 1769, Domestic Medicine was printed in Britain until 1846 and in the Americas until 1913. Catherine the Great, czar of Russia, was so impressed by the work, she sent Buchan a gold medal and personal letter.[9]

It was the first text of its kind. Previous to Buchan’s work, most medical texts either were theoretical and written for the more educated or were short manuals that were not descriptive enough to help diagnose illnesses. Buchan helped combine these two styles. Domestic Medicine was written in lay terms, so it reached a wider audience. It also described the diseases and treatments thoroughly enough so that people could actually concoct the necessary remedies. Only Samuel-Auguste Tissot’s Avis au peuple was of similar style, and Buchan acknowledged it influenced his writing. [5]

Buchan experienced wider exposure than Tissot because Buchan addressed new areas, such as industrial diseases. The writing of Domestic Medicine took place near the start of the industrial revolution and resounded with the industrial workers. Generally, these industrial diseases and cures suffered from secondhand observations rather than more stringent clinical observation; however, they held the promise of health and garnered general support. Domestic Medicine also was one of the first texts to not only discuss potential cures to diseases, but also to strongly emphasize prevention. In fact, the first third of the text is dedicated how to prevent a number of diseases. Buchan also emphasized a strict regimen of hygiene and cleanliness that extended into morality. Buchan argued that immoral people were much more likely to develop an illness.[10]

Even though Domestic Medicine was groundbreaking in many areas, many of its theories were still grounded in humorism. Buchan was a strong advocate for letting nature take its course and resetting the patient to the natural set point. Like a large number of physicians at the time, Buchan was also a strong proponent of bloodletting and purging as cures. The belief was that if the body could eject the infections, it would return to its natural point. Buchan also advocated for careful tracking of the non-naturals (air, meat and drink, sleeping and watching, exercise and quiet, evacuations and obstructions, and passions).[11] Too much of one would result in an imbalance and make a person more likely to develop an illness.

Death[edit]

Buchan died on February 25, 1805, at the age of 76.[12] He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dunn, Peter M. (1 July 2000). "Dr William Buchan (1729–1805) and his Domestic medicine". Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition. 83 (1): F71–F73. ISSN 1359-2998. doi:10.1136/fn.83.1.F71. 
  2. ^ RUHRÄH, JOHN (1 August 1931). "WILLIAM BUCHAN, M.D. 1729-1805". Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 42 (2). ISSN 0096-8994. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1931.01940140143012. 
  3. ^ RUHRÄH, JOHN (1 August 1931). "WILLIAM BUCHAN, M.D. 1729-1805". Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 42 (2). ISSN 0096-8994. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1931.01940140143012. 
  4. ^ RUHRÄH, JOHN (1 August 1931). "WILLIAM BUCHAN, M.D. 1729-1805". Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 42 (2). ISSN 0096-8994. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1931.01940140143012. 
  5. ^ a b Lawrence, C J (1 January 1975). "William Buchan: medicine laid open.". Medical History. 19 (1): 20–35. ISSN 0025-7273. 
  6. ^ Lawrence, C J (1 January 1975). "William Buchan: medicine laid open.". Medical History. 19 (1): 20–35. ISSN 0025-7273. 
  7. ^ RUHRÄH, JOHN (1 August 1931). "WILLIAM BUCHAN, M.D. 1729-1805". Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 42 (2). ISSN 0096-8994. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1931.01940140143012. 
  8. ^ Dunn, Peter M. (1 July 2000). "Dr William Buchan (1729–1805) and his Domestic medicine". Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition. 83 (1): F71–F73. ISSN 1359-2998. doi:10.1136/fn.83.1.F71. 
  9. ^ Dunn, Peter M. (1 July 2000). "Dr William Buchan (1729–1805) and his Domestic medicine". Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition. 83 (1): F71–F73. ISSN 1359-2998. doi:10.1136/fn.83.1.F71. 
  10. ^ Buchan, William (1807). Dr. Buchan's Family medical works : containing the Domestic medicine, enlarged : and the Advice to mothers, on the subject of their own health; and on the means of promoting the health, strength, and beauty of their offspring (3rd ed.). MedicalHeritageLibrary. 
  11. ^ Buchan, William (1807). Dr. Buchan's Family medical works : containing the Domestic medicine, enlarged : and the Advice to mothers, on the subject of their own health; and on the means of promoting the health, strength, and beauty of their offspring (3rd ed.). MedicalHeritageLibrary. 
  12. ^ Dunn, Peter M. (2000-07-01). "Dr William Buchan (1729–1805) and his Domestic medicine". Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition. 83 (1): F71–F73. ISSN 1359-2998. PMC 1721115Freely accessible. PMID 10873177. doi:10.1136/fn.83.1.F71. 

Further reading[edit]

Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.