Materia Medica Lectures of Francis Home

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 MMM/1/7
  • Dates of Creation
      14 Nov 1769-27 Apr 1770
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      1 volume, 188 folios Both boards have come away

Scope and Content

Notes of the materia medica lectures of Dr Francis Home (1719-1813) given at Edinburgh University, where he held the post of Professor of Materia Medica, and was the first person to do so.

The topics covered in the lectures according to the index are as follows: general remarks, classification, aliment, alimentary functions, nutrition, evacuantia, errhines-sternutatories, expectorantia, sialogoga, emmenagoga, cathartics, emetics, bleeding, diuretics, diaphoretics & sudorifics, attenuants, lime water, inspissants, deobstruents, antacids & demulients, antiseptics, humetantia, emollientia, corroborantia, astringents, tonics, air, balsamica, stimulantia, sea-salt, antimony, electricity, passions, antispasmodica, animal heat, calefacientia, anodyne, narcotics, topica interna, topica externa, discutients, issues, caustics, consolidantia, suppuration, digestion, carminatives, lithontriptica, anthelmentics, of specifics, materia medica composita sive pharmacia, cure of disease in general, and conclusion.

A note has been made in the back cover entitled 'cases of fasting' seemingly unrelated to Home's lecture notes. These notes include reference to a woman in 1347 adjudged to fast for 40 days without meat or drink; a man who wilfully fasted for 14 days being melancholic, a Scotchman who abstained from meat for 30 or 40 days; two Englishwomen, one who fasted for 28 years the other 40; a woman who lived a year without meat or drink in 1669. In each case there is reference to the source of the story.

The volume bears the bookplate of the Radford Library, Saint Mary's Hospital, Manchester, which also indicates that it was allocated the reference number Q136 viz. their 1877 catalogue. The volume has since been referenced H6 H53 as part of an alternative system. An inscription in the front reads 'E Libris R Dobson MD', the volume bears the original pagination pp.1-359, writing is on both the recto and verso and there is an index in the rear.

Administrative / Biographical History

Francis Home (1719-1813) was born on 9 November 1719 in Edinburgh and was the son of advocate James Home and his wife Jean Kinloch. He began his medical education as an apprentice to Edinburgh-based surgeon Mr Rattray before studying at the University of Edinburgh. Home broke off his studies and joined the 6th Inniskilling regiment of dragoons as a surgeon and served in Flanders during the War of the Austrian Succession. He worked hard during this time to draw up orders to prevent the spread of fevers amongst the troops and also used breaks in the campaign to attend lectures in Leiden. On his return to Edinburgh he graduated with his MD in 1750. His dissertation for the degree was entitled De febre remittente and incorporated data from his time spent with the troops. In 1751 he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

In 1768 Home was appointed as the first professor of materia medica at Edinburgh University and also engaged in the teaching of clinical lectures on the wards of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He held the professorship until 1798 when his son James Home succeeded him in the post. Home was also one of his majesty's physicians in Scotland and served as the president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh from 1775 to 1777. His professional endeavours included experiments with a vaccination for measles in the 1750s and his publications include An Inquiry in the Nature, Cause and Cure of the Croup (1765), Experiments on Bleaching (1756), The Principles of Agriculture and Vegetation (1757), Principia Medicinae (1758), Methodus Materia Medicae (1770), and Clinical Experiments Histories and Dissections (1780).

Home died at the age of 94 on 15 February 1813.


Iain Milne, 'Home, Francis (1719-1813)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 29 June 2016]. Grodin & Glantz Children as Research Subjects: Science, Ethics, and Law, Oxford University Press, 1994.