William Stirling (physiologist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Prof William "Billy" Stirling MD LLD DSc FRSE (26 January 1851 in Grangemouth – 1 October 1932 in Manchester), was a Scottish physiologist. He served as professor of physiology[1] and was a founder of the physiology department at the Victoria University of Manchester.[2]


He was born in Grangemouth on 26 January 1851.

He was educated at Dollar Academy, then studied science and medicine at the University of Edinburgh, graduating with a BSc with first class honours in 1870, DSc and MB CM both with similar distinction in 1872 and MD with gold medal in 1875.[3] He then studied at the University of Leipzig under Professor Carl Ludwig, and at Paris under Professor Louis-Antoine Ranvier. Stirling was appointed demonstrator of zoology and, later, of physiology at the University of Edinburgh. In 1877 he became Regius Professor of the Institutes of Medicine in the University of Aberdeen. His classroom was in Marischal College, but by then King's and Marischal Colleges had been united into one university. In the same year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Sir Joseph Lister, Sir William Turner, John Hutton Balfour and William Rutherford.[4] His predecessor's practical course had been limited to microscopic histology. Stirling introduced demonstrations of experimental physiology. [5]

Stirling was, upon the resignation of Arthur Gamgee, appointed the Brackenbury Professor of Physiology and Histology at Owens College (in 1904 renamed the Victoria University of Manchester) from 1886 until his retirement in 1919.[6] In the Brackenbury Professorship, he was succeeded by A. V. Hill.

Stirling was in 1902–1913 dean of the medical school of Owens College (renamed Victoria University of Manchester in 1904) and gave many public lectures on medicine and public health. After he became a professor at the University of Aberdeen he no longer did scientific research and concentrated on teaching, administration, and writing. His BMJ obituary notes that he was a fine lecturer for medical students and the general public, in that he was clear, precise and didactic: there was little weighing of arguments for and against physiological theories and certainly not much philosophical doubt.

He translated Leonard Landois's Lehrbuch der Physiologie des Menschen in 1884, adding some chapters of his own, including a detailed account of the examination of the chest and heart. He also wrote Outlines of Practical Physiology (1888) and Outlines of Practical Histology (1890). Stirling was in 1906–1909 Fullerian Professor of Physiology of the Royal Institution, London. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was elected in 1877 a member of the Physiological Society.[7]


His son, William Stirling, became an ophthalmic surgeon in Manchester.

Works (selection)[edit]


  1. ^ Addison, Henry Robert; Oakes, Charles Henry; Lawson, William John; Sladen, Douglas Brooke Wheelton (1905). "Stirling, W." Who's Who. 57: 1541.
  2. ^ "Papers of William Stirling: collection-level description". ELGAR, The University of Manchester.
  3. ^ Stirling, William (1875). "On the summation of electrical stimuli applied to the skin". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  5. ^ Pennington, Carolyn (1992). "chapter 10: From Scottish Generalism to European Experimental Specialism: Developments in the Teaching of Physiology at Aberdeen, 1860-1920". In Carter, Jennifer; Withrington, Donald (eds.). Scottish Universities: Distinctiveness and Diversity. John Donald. pp. 106–110. ISBN 978-0-859-76375-2.
  6. ^ O'Connor, W. J. (1991). "Physiology at Manchester". British Physiologists 1885–1914: a biographical dictionary. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 322. ISBN 9780719032820.
  7. ^ "William Stirling, M.D., LL.D., D.Sc". Br Med J. 2 (3744): 695–696. 8 October 1932. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.3744.695-a. PMC 2521730. PMID 20777104.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Louis Compton Miall
Fullerian Professor of Physiology
Succeeded by
Frederick Walker Mott