Compendium of Obstetrics from the Lectures of Colin Mackenzie

  • Reference
      GB 133 MMM/14/2/3
  • Dates of Creation
      n.d. [ca. 1772]
  • Name of Creator
  • Physical Description
      1 volume, 156 folios

Scope and Content

The volume is believed to have once formed part of the Radford Library, although there are no marks on the manuscript itself to indicate this and it cannot be found in the 1877 library catalogue. However, one other manuscript in this collection, also by J. Winterbottom, is known for certain to have been part of the Radford Library and the assumption has been made that they were housed together.

The front cover reads 'compendium obsteticrum ex praelectionibus precipue Colin Mackenzie M.D. Londinensis nec non ex optimis auctoribus exceptum per Johannem Greaves eius decipulis' or A compendium of obstetrics principally from the lectures of Colin Mackenzie M.D. of London and from the best authors by John Greaves his pupil'. The content of the manuscript is split into three distinct sections, each with their own pagination. Folios 144-156 are blank.

Section 1 follows on straight from the title page and bears the original pagination pp.1-91. It is untitled and there is no attempt to number individual lectures. The notes finish on p.79 and pp.80-85 bears a table entitled 'touching lectures, symptoms of pregnancy' which lists a number of individual cases examined and is dated Dec 1771-Jan 1772. The information given in the table includes the mother's name, number of children she has, month of pregnancy, other remarks, and a description of her examination. An index to the preceding notes can be found on pp.86-88 and pp.89-91 relates the story of Mr. D. being called to visit a woman recently delivered by an 'ignorant midwife' and suffering after the labour and describes her subsequent autopsy, dated 13 December 1772.

The index of this section details the topics covered as follows: directions for accoucheur, after pains, obstruction of anus, aphtha, apoplectic, arm presenting, binding of belly, applications to breast, breech cases, management of child, club foot, signs of conception, false conception, convulsions, want of cranium, crotchet, dead child, diarrhoea, disorders of pregnancy, evacuations after delivery, extremities swelled, face cases, false labour, flooding, flowing of milk [breast feeding], forceps [surgical instruments], footling cases, gravid uterus, watery gripes, red gum [papular urticaria], haemorrhoids, haemorrhages, introduction of hand, method of opening head [craniotomy], hydrocephalus, instruments not fond of, swelling of labia, approaching signs of labour, laborious labours, natural labour, preternatural labours [breech presentation], unsuccessful labour, laceration of the perineum, leucophlegmatia [oedema], lues venerea [syphilis], lochial fever, management of lying-in women, miscarriages [spontaneous abortion], moles, nausea, nipples, nurses, operations, the pelvis, pessaries, placenta, prolapse uterus [uterine prolapse], scooping, shoulders presenting, stone in bladder, toothache, the touch, turning, twins, suppression of urine, and method of knowing whether children born alive or not.

The second section is entitled 'Lectures on Midwifery by Colin Mackenzie M.D., 1772' and bears the original pagination pp.1-125. The lectures in this section are individually numbered and total 17. An index is provided, the content of which is very similar to the first section, with additional entries including: abdominal pressure, abdominal tumour, abortion, absorption, amnion, arbor vitae, discouragement of bearing down, blunt hook, separation of bones in labour, caesarean, cases on the machine, catamenia, catheter, chorion, clitoris, uterus yields to the pressure of the penis on coition, cold bath, ruptured uterus, method of delivery, dropsy [oedema], dyspnoea, swelling of lower extremities, fallopian tubes, organs of generation, frights, frenum, hymen, incontinence, inflammation of uterus, tumour in uterus from kick of a horse, breaking of membranes, noose, nymphae, narrow pubis, polypus, advice to young practitioners, retardation in deformed pelvis, smallpox, lacerated sphincter, and women when they ought not to be left.

The third section is entitled 'Lectures on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery by Colin Mackenzie M.D.' and bears the original pagination pp.1-55, although the final 9 folios are not paginated. Each lecture is numbered and there are 22 in total; this section is not indexed. The content of the lectures is as follows: (1) on the rise of midwifery, (2) external parts of generation, (3) how generation is performed, (4) the gravid uterus, (5) diseases attending pregnancy, (6) causes of abortion, (7) natural labours, (8) management of natural labours, (9) use of instruments, (10-12) cases on the machine, (13-15) face cases, (16) preternatural labours [breech presentation], (17) premature labours, (18) third class of preternaturals, (19) arm presenting, (20) twins, (21) narrow pubis, (22) treatment of lying-in women & management of children.

Administrative / Biographical History

Colin Mackenzie was born in 1697/8 most likely at Muirton, Ross-shire, and was the second son of Kenneth Alexander Mackenzie and Mary Mackenzie. The first record of his medical education is of his attendance of the lectures of Herman Boerhaave in Leiden in 1722 and he is later known to have attended the lectures of Alexander Monro primus in Edinburgh in the 1740s. Mackenzie later travelled to London to pursue a career in midwifery and obstetrics, a potentially very lucrative opportunity as the speciality had been neglected by most English practitioners.

Once in London he is known to have attended the classes of William Smellie, who describes him as his senior pupil. A notable event occurred in 1754 when Mackenzie acquired the body of a woman who had died undelivered and performed her dissection at his premises in St Saviour's Churchyard, Southwark. Smellie was unaware of this dissection and Mackenzie invited John and William Hunter along to partake in part of the dissection. William Hunter later published findings relating to the connection between the maternal and foetal blood supplies which was based on this dissection. It was not until many years later that Mackenzie was given any public credit for his role in this discovery.

From 1754 right up until his death, Mackenzie offered courses in midwifery and obstetrics from St Saviour's Churchyard and also maintained a private lying-in establishment nearby in Crucifix Lane. Mackenzie never published and only a few manuscript copies of his lectures survive, but these offer a good insight into his teaching methods and show him to have made liberal use of the obstetric machines most associated with Smellie. He received his MD from the University of St Andrews in 1759.

Mackenzie died on 31 January 1775 at his property in St Saviour's Churchyard and his estate was inherited by his brother Alexander Mackenzie of Muirton. Together David Orme and William Lowder, both of whom also taught at St Saviour's Churchyard, purchased Mackenzie's collection of obstetric teaching materials for 1000 guineas.


Josephine M. Lloyd, 'Mackenzie, Colin (1697/8-1775)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press, 2006.