Rutherford's Clinical Lectures

Scope and Content

The volume bears the bookplate of Charles White (1728-1813) as well as his signature on one of the early pages. Additional notes indicate that it was owned by Samuel Crompton (1817-1891) in 1843 and then given by him to Thomas Radford in 1858. The stamps of various libraries then show it to have been donated by Radford to the Radford Library at St Mary's Hospital where it was allocated the reference O 1290 before becoming part of the main Manchester Medical Society Library at the University of Manchester. The manuscript has the original pagination pp.1-364 and an index in the rear.

Clinical lectures differed from traditional classroom based teaching in that students were taught on the hospital wards using real life patients to illustrate some of the most common diseases and ailments and to see how they should be treated. In this case the patients were seen on the wards of the Edinburgh Infirmary. As such, instead of individually numbered lectures, the notes are presented like patient case notes. The index in the rear lists patients by name with their disease alongside the corresponding page number.

The cases/diseases covered are as follows: gravel & rheumatism, epileptic fits from worms, rheumatism, ague, diarrhoea & haemoptoe [haemoptysis], pleurisy, gonorrhoea, fluor albus [leukorrhoea], venereal disease, scurvy, headache, dropsy [oedema] & diarrhoea, sourness on the stomach, vomiting, heartburn etc., irregular ague, hydrocephalus, smallpox & chin cough, catarrh, stone in the bladder [urinary bladder calucli], scorbutic ulcers [scurvy], sore throat & irregular pulse, peripneumony [pneumonia], jaundice, cachexia, dropsy & asthma etc., hemiplegia & smallpox, cough & pain in the head & breast etc., epileptic fits [epilepsy], hysteric symptoms & obstruction of the menses [amenorrhoea], slow fever, hemiplegia & amaurosis [blindness] etc., white swelling, want of menses, scrofula [tuberculosis, lymph node] & haemoptoe, convulsive motion, palsy [paralysis], suppression of the lochia after child bearing, dropsy and after that epileptic fits etc.

On pp.353-364 is a small section entitled 'An abstract of a lecture of Professor Monro's upon a surgical patient in the Edinburgh Infirmary' in which the case of Margaret Watson who has been diagnosed with a burnt breast is discussed.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Rutherford was born on 1 August 1695 in Selkirkshire and was the son of minister John Rutherford. He first studied an arts course at the University of Edinburgh from 1709 to 1710 before spending six years as an apprentice to the Edinburgh based surgeon Alexander Nesbit. Rutherford then spent time studying at the various London hospitals, Leiden, and Rheims, where he gained his MD on 31 July 1719. In Leiden he studied under Herman Boerhaave who was a significant influence on Rutherford's work, particularly his attitude to clinical teaching.

On his return to the UK Rutherford settled in Edinburgh in 1721 and began practice as a physician as well as operating a laboratory for the preparation of compound medicines alongside fellow doctors John Innes, Andrew Plummer, and Andrew Sinclair. With the founding of the University of Edinburgh Medical School in 1726 Rutherford and his aforementioned colleagues were all appointed as professors along with the likes of Alexander Monro primus. Rutherford occupied the chair of the pracitce of physic and delivered all his lectures in Latin. Two years prior to this in 1724 he had been elected a fellow of the Royal Colleg eof Physicians of Edinburgh. One of Rutherford's most important actions as a professor was to initiate clinical teaching on the wards of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in 1748, the first place in the UK to offer this approach. Rutherford resigned his position in 1765 to be replaced by John Gregory.

Rutherford was married twice and had children with both his wives. He was the father of physician Daniel Rutherford (1749-1819) and also the grandfather of acclaimed writer Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). Rutherford died in Edinburgh in 1779.


Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783-2002, Biographical Index Part 2 (Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2006). D'A. Power, 'Rutherford, John (1695-1779)', rev. Jean Loudon, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 28 June 2016]. Thomas Thomson, A Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen, Volume 7, Glasgow, 1855.