Lectures and Notes of Professor Sir Douglas Maclagan (1812-1900)

Scope and Content

The material consists of lectures on medical jurisprudence, Gen. 1412-1415; and, notes of lectures on forensic medicine, 1883, and on poisons, 1886, Dk.3.25-26. Also included is part of the content of a notebook of clinical medicine with method of casetaking and index of diseases, by Sir Douglas Maclagan and others, Dc.7.137. The notes and lectures on medical jurisprudence are varied in topic, from: strangulation, classification of poisons, sedative poisons, putrefaction, bruises and contusions, and wounds. Public health notes and lectures include topics such as: ventilation, drainage, sewerage, nuisances, and burial places.

Administrative / Biographical History

Douglas Maclagan was born in Ayr on 17 April 1812, and baptised by the same Minister who had baptised the poet Robert Burns over fifty years earlier. He was educated at the Royal High School in Edinburgh, and then studied at Edinburgh University where he graduated in 1833. A couple of years later he toured hospitals in London and in continental Europe with James Young Simpson (1811-1870). On his return, Maclagan was appointed Assistant Surgeon at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. However, he turned towards materia medica instead, and lectured on this at the Extramural School of Medicine. He also became interested in toxicology, and was a close friend of toxicologist Sir Robert Christison, often assisting him in forensic matters. When the Chair of Medical Jurisprudence and Public Health at Edinburgh University was vacated in 1862, Maclagan was appointed. During his occupancy, he developed the public health scope of the Chair.

Publications include his thesis when a candidate for admission to the Royal College of Surgeons A probationary essay on carbuncle (1833), and Nugae canorae medicae: lays by the poet laureate of the New Town Dispensary (1850).

During his career, Maclagan was President of both the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons. He was knighted in 1886, and he retired from his Chair in 1897. Professor Sir Douglas Maclagan died on 5 April 1900.

Providing a glimpse of his lecture content are the notes taken by the Physician, James Allan Gray when he attended University. James Allan Gray was born in 1854. He studied at Edinburgh University and a diary that he kept while there, from October 1870, provided an illustration of student life over one hundred and thirty years ago. Gray was awarded the degree of MA in 1872 and obtained a Bachelor of Medicine and Master in Surgery in 1876 and was became registered in Scotland in that year, on August 2. He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine with a gold medal in 1880. Gray became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicans of Edinburgh in 1881. James Allan Gray practised in Leith for 51 years and died in 1930.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Lectures taken down by James Allan Gray received from J. D. Allan Gray B.Sc. in January 1968, Accession nos. E.68/5 and E.68.34. Lectures taken down by C. C. Easterbrook purchased June 1972.


The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Who was who. A companion to Who's who...1897-1916. London; A. and C. Black, 1920. (2) Thomson, William A. R. University of Edinburgh journal. Vol.30. No.4. December 1982. pp.287. (3) Extracts from the diary of James Allan Gray, by Gray, J. D. Allan University of Edinburgh journal. Vol.25. 1971-1972. pp.45-51. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd. (4) The medical register ... 1889. London: Her Majesty's Printing Office.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to Maclagan related material (check the Indexes for more details): letters to Sir Archibald Geikie at Gen. 525; letters to Sir J. Struthers at Gen. 566/1 and Gen. 566/5-6; other correspondence; and, testimonial in favour of another. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: correspondence relating to Maclagan, 1856-57, at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, NRA 16015 Coll. of Physicians.

Corporate Names