William Buchan (physician)

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William Buchan
William Buchan
William Buchan
Born1729 (1729)
Ancrum, Scotland
Died1805 (aged 75–76)
OccupationScottish 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, which provided laypeople with detailed descriptions of the causes and prevention of diseases. Buchan’s goal was one of "laying medicine more open to mankind." With over 80,000 copies and 19 editions sold in Buchan’s lifetime, it was one of the most popular medical texts in Europe, and was translated into almost every major European language.

Life and career[edit]

William Buchan was born in Ancrum, Roxburgshire, Scotland, in 1729. During his early years he attended a local grammar school and had already taken a keen interest in medicine. At an early age with no formal training, he acted as one of the novice village physicians.[1]

Upon entering Edinburgh University in 1749, he enrolled in the School of divinity under pressure from his family.[2] He soon replaced his theological studies with studies in mathematics,botany, and ultimately medicine. He completed his studies in medicine in 1758 after approximately nine years at the university.

After 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.

At the Foundling Hospital, he worked frequently with children. In 1761 he wrote his medical dissertation, On the Preservation of Infant Life, arguing that far too many infants were dying in Great Britain each year.[3] There was little response to his work.

Soon after, Buchan married a lady of the Dundas clan, one of the most noble clans of Scotland.[3] Later that year, Parliament stopped funding the Foundling Hospital, so Buchan 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.[4] A son, Alexander Peter Buchan, was born in Sheffield in 1764 and later followed his father into medicine.

William Buchan published his famous work Domestic Medicine in 1769. The first edition sold for only six shillings and was a great success. Domestic Medicine went on to sell over 80,000 copies, and 19 editions were printed, translated into almost every major European language.[5] In 1772, Buchan became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

In 1778, Buchan announced his candidacy for the position as chair of the Institute of Medicine upon the death of John Gregory; however, he lost the election. He later moved to London, practicing there until his death on 25 February 1805. He is buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey.

Works[edit]

Domestic Medicine[edit]

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 that she sent Buchan a gold medal and personal letter.[6]

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 not descriptive enough to help diagnose illnesses. A combination of these two styles, Domestic Medicine was written in lay terms in order to reach a wider audience. It described the diseases and treatments thoroughly enough to allow people to create cures themselves. Only Swiss physician Samuel-Auguste Tissot’s Avis au peuple was of similar style, and Buchan acknowledged it influenced his writing.[3]

Buchan experienced wider exposure than Tissot because he addressed new health areas such as industrial diseases. The writing of Domestic Medicine took place near the start of the Industrial Revolution and was welcomed by the industrial workers. Generally, these industrial diseases and cures suffered from secondhand observation rather than more stringent clinical observation; however, their promise of better health garnered general support.

Domestic Medicine also was one of the first texts not only to discuss potential cures to diseases, but also to emphasize prevention. The first third of the text is dedicated to how to prevent a number of diseases, including inoculation against smallpox. Buchan's emphasis on a strict regimen of hygiene and cleanliness extended into moral judgement, in that he argued that immoral people were more likely to develop illness.[7]

Even though Domestic Medicine was groundbreaking in many areas, many of its theories remained grounded in the traditional medical view of humorism. Buchan was a strong advocate for letting nature take its course and restoring the patient to the natural setpoint. Like a large number of physicians at the time, Buchan was a strong proponent of bloodletting and purging as cures. The belief was that if the body could expel the infections, it would return to its natural point. Buchan also advocated careful tracking of non-naturals (air, meat and drink, sleeping and watching, exercise and quiet, evacuations and obstructions, and passions).[7] Too much of one would result in an imbalance, making a person more likely to develop an illness.

Death[edit]

Buchan died on 25 February 1805, at the age of 76.[8] He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Domestic Medicine; or the Family physician: being an attempt to render the medical art more generally useful, by shewing people what is in their own power both with respect to the prevention and cure of diseases; chiefly calculated to recommend a proper attention to regimen, and simple medicines. Edinburgh : Balfour ; Auld ; Smellie, 1769. Digital edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • Médecine domestique, ou Traité complet des moyens de se conserver en Santé, de guérir & de prévenir des maladies, par le régime & les remèdes simples. Tome 1. 4. éd. Paris : Desoer, 1792. Digital edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • Domestic Medicine : Or, a Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and simple Medicines. Fairhaven : Lyon, 1798. Digital edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • Médecine domestique. Ou, Traité complet, des moyens de se conserver en santé, de guérir & de prévenir les maladies, par le régime & les remedes simples. Tome 4. 5. éd. Paris : Moutardier, 1802. Digital edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • Domestic Medicine : or, a Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines. Glasgow : Gardner, 1806. Digital edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • Domestic Medicine : or, a Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines. London : Oddy, 1813. Digital edition by the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • The new 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. Ancillary works: To which is now first added, Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Buchan and important extracts from other works, particularly his Advice to Mothers / by William Nisbet. A new Ed., enlarged and improved. London : Kelly, 1814. Digital edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • Domestic Medicine: or, the Family Physician ; a Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases, by Regimen and Simple Medicines. Dunbar : Miller, 1818. Digital edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • Domestic Medicine: or, a Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines. London : Lewis, 1830. Digital edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • The Life of Lewis Cornaro, and his Methods of attaining a long and healthful Life. London : Kelly, 1840. Digital edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • The new 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; with a supplement, containing the life of Lewis Cornaro and his methods of attaining a long and healthful life. London : Kelly, 1840. Digital edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • Buchan's domestic medicine, or, The family physician: designed 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 : chiefly calculated to recommend a proper attention to regimen, and simple medicines. Hartford : Andrus, 1840. Digital edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • Buchan, W. (1761) "On the Preservation of Infant Life." Doctoral dissertation, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dunn, Peter M. (1 July 2000). "Perinatal lessons from the past: Dr William Buchan (1729–1805) and his Domestic medicine". Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Neonatal Edition. 83 (1): F71–F73. doi:10.1136/fn.83.1.F71. ISSN 1359-2998. PMC 1721115. PMID 10873177.
  2. ^ Ruhräh, John (1 August 1931). "WILLIAM BUCHAN, M.D. 1729-1805". Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 42 (2): 403. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1931.01940140143012. ISSN 0096-8994.
  3. ^ a b c Lawrence, C J (1 January 1975). "William Buchan: medicine laid open". Medical History. 19 (1): 20–35. doi:10.1017/s0025727300019918. ISSN 0025-7273. PMC 1081607. PMID 1095850.
  4. ^ Ruhräh, John (1 August 1931). "WILLIAM BUCHAN, M.D. 1729-1805". Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 42 (2): 403. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1931.01940140143012. ISSN 0096-8994.
  5. ^ Dunn, Peter M. (1 July 2000). "Perinatal lessons from the past: Dr William Buchan (1729–1805) and his Domestic medicine". Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Neonatal Edition. 83 (1): F71–F73. doi:10.1136/fn.83.1.F71. ISSN 1359-2998. PMC 1721115. PMID 10873177.
  6. ^ 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. doi:10.1136/fn.83.1.F71. ISSN 1359-2998. PMC 1721115. PMID 10873177.
  7. ^ a b 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.). Medical Heritage Library.
  8. ^ 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. doi:10.1136/fn.83.1.F71. ISSN 1359-2998. PMC 1721115. PMID 10873177.

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.