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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


I54 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. Queen Street. hospitality was princely, his charity and his philanthropy to the poor were boundless; and amid the crowds of patients and visitors-many of them of the highest rank in Europe-with whom his house overflowed, the grand professor moved with unaffected ease and gaiety, and talking of everything, from some world-wide discovery in the most severe of the severer sciences, to the last new novel. He had.a !vord or a jest for all. How he camed on his gigantic practice-how he achieved his splendid and apparently unaccountable scientific investigations-how he found time for his antiquarian and literary labours, and yet was able to take a prominent part in every public, and still more in every philanthropic, movement, was ever a mystery to all who knew him. But during the long and weary watches of the night, beside the ailing or the dying, when watching perilous cases with which he alone could grapple, he sat by the patient?s side with book or pen in hand, for not a moment of his priceless time was ever wasted. ? Many of my most brilliant papers,? he once said to his students, ?were composed at the bedside of my patients.? Yet he never neglected them, even the most poor and needy-and they had his preference even to the peers and princes of the land. As a physician he had fewer failures and made fewer mistakes than most men, and he saved the lives of thousands. Simpson was not a specialist-his mind was too broad and great for that; and no one ever excelled him in the ingenuity, simplicity, and originality of his treatment. When other men shrank from the issues of life and death, he was swift to do, to dare, and to save ; and it is a curious fact that on the night Simpson was born in his father?s humble abode in the village of Bathgate, the village doctor has marked in his case-book that on that occasion he ?amved too late ! ? By the introduction of chloroform into his practice, the labour of 2,000 years of investigation culminated. A new era was inaugurated for woman, though the clergy rose in wrath, and denounced it as an interference with the laws of Providence. It was on the 28th of November, 1847, that he became satisfied of the safety of using chloroform by?experimenting on himself and two other medical men. ? Drs. Simpson, Keith, and Duncan,? we are told, (? sat each with a. tumbler in hand, and in the tumbler a napkin. Chloroform was poured upon each napkin, and inhaled. Simpson, after a while, drowsy as he was, was roused by Dr. Duncan snoring, and by Dr. Keith kicking about in a far from graceful way. He saw at once that he must have been sent to sleep by the chloroform. He saw his friends still under its effects. In a word, he saw tliat the great discovery had been made, and that his long labours had come to a successful end.? Since then how much bodily anguish has vanished under its silent influence! In Britain there are now many manufactories of chloroform; and in Edinburgh alone there is one which makes about three millions of doses yearly-evidence, as Simp son said, of ? the great extent to which the practice is now carried of wrapping men, women, and children in a painless sleep during some of the most trying moments and hours of human existence, and especially when our frail brother man is laid upon the operating-table and subjected to the torture of the surgeons? knives and scalpels, his saws and his cauteries.? As to his invention of acupressure in lieu of the ligature, though its adoption has not become general throughout the surgical world, the introduction of this simple method of restraining haemorrhage would of itself have entitled Simpson to enrol his name among the greatest surgeons of Europe. The last great movement with which he was connected was hospital reform. He argued that while only one in 180 patients who had even an arm amputated died in the country or in their homes, one in thirty died in hospitals. His idea was that the unit of a hospital was not the ward, but the bed, and the ideal hospital should have every patient absolutely shut off from every other, so that the unhealthy should not pollute or injure the healthy. As an antiquarian and archeologist he held the highest rank, and for some years was president of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries. His religious addresses were remarkable for their sweetness, freshness, and fervour ; and one which he gave at the last of some special religious services held in the Queen Street Hall during the winter of 1861-2 made a great impression on all who heard him. He was member of a host of learned societies, the mere enumeration of which would tire the reader. ?These were his earthly honours; but :heir splendour pales when we think that on what- :ver spot on earth a human being suffers, and is released from anguish by the application of those liscoveries his mighty genius has revealed to manrind, his name is remembered with gratitude, and issociated with the noblest and greatest of those who, in all ages of the world, have devoted their ives and their genius to enlightening and brightenng the lot of humanity.? . I
Volume 3 Page 154
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