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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 53 prbjected the plan of delivering private lectures on medicine in Edinburgh is not exactly known, It was considered as a great novelty, because at that time there had been only one instance of an attempt to deliver medical lectures without the bounds of the University. This was by Dr. George Martin, also a physician from St. Andrews. He commenced about twelve or fifteen years previous to Dr. Duncan. Whether he delivered a second course is unknown, for he was very soon removed by death. Dr. Duncan for many years gave lectures on different branches of medicine, Whilst busily engaged in preparing for the commencement of his lectures, a vacancy having occurred in the University of St. Andrews, by the death of Dr. Thomas Simson, Professor of Medicine, Dr. Duncan immediately resolved to stand for the chair, which is in the gift of the University. On this occasion he produced ample testimonials from the medical gentlemen of the University of Edinburgh, under whom he had studied, as well as other equally satisfactory recommendations. He was nevertheless unsuccessful. This occurred in 1 770. Without relaxing his diligence during the course of that year, he published a syllabus of what he proposed to discuss more fully in his lectures. It was entitled ‘‘ Elements of Therapeutics.” In 1772 Dr. Duncan published an essay on the use of mercury. On the 6th September 1775 he was appointed by the patrons to teach the class of the Institutes of Medicine, in the place of Dr. Drummond, at that time abroad. He at the same time announced himself a candidate, in the event of Dr. Drummond declining to accept of the professorship. It is now generally acknowledged that Dr. Duncan was not fairly treated in this transaction by the magistrates, who thought proper to pass him over. At the commencement of the session, in November 1776, he published an address to the students of medicine in the University, in which he stated his intention to continue his lectures out of the College. About this time he also gave to the public “Heads of Lectures on the Theory and Practice of Medicine.” His classes were well attended ; and his not obtaining the professorship increased in place of diminishing the number of students. The Doctor had the merit of founding, in the same year, the Edinburgh Dispensary. An Infirmary had been erected about forty years before that peridd ; but persons afflicted with what are termed chronic diseases are not aclmitted into it, though they have a very strong claim upon the sympathy and compassion of mankind. The labour and exertion to which he submitted in accomplishing the object intended were unremitting. He drew up a prospectus ; and, after circulating it among his friends, and securing their approbation, he adventured to address the public upon the subject, which was favourably received. A Hall was erected in West Richmond Street, with suitable accommodation. In it there is a portrait of the founder, painted for the Dispensary by the late Sir Henry Raeburn. The Doctor lived long to see his generous labours crowned with success ; and, at the interval of half a century, to have the agreeable information communicated, The plan and the execution of it originated with himself.
Volume 9 Page 72
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