Notes from Lectures of Alexander Monro Secundus

Administrative / Biographical History

Alexander Monro (1733-1817) was born in Edinburgh on 20 May 1733 the son of Alexander Monro (1697-1767) and Isabella Macdonald and was known as Monro Secundus to distinguish him from his father and his son who both held the same name and all in turn held the Professorship of Anatomy at Edinburgh University. Monro began his studies at Edinburgh University at the age of 12 with an ordinary course of philosophy, at which time his father had already made up his mind that he should succeed him as Professor of Anatomy. He began attending medical lectures in 1750, although his name had appeared on his father's anatomy class list much earlier.

Even though he was still a student he began teaching in 1753 and following a petition by his father was recognised as joint professor of medicine and anatomy in June 1754 and assisted his father with his teaching duties.

Monro gained his MD in October 1755 and over the next three years undertook a medical tour of Europe to engage in further studies and meet renowned anatomists. He began in London attending the lectures of William Hunter before proceeding to Paris, Leiden, and Berlin. His father's illness then brought him back to Edinburgh in 1757 and whilst Monro primus gave the opening lectures of the 1758/9 course, teaching responsibility and the duties of the professorship were then handed over to Monro secundus. He became a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) in May 1758 and a fellow in May 1759.

During his professorship he became highly regarded and influential and published a number of papers during his career, including ones on the nervous system and on comparative anatomy. He resisted attempts made by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh to implement Professorship of Surgery, which would have encroached on his work, and successfully had his title changed in 1777 to Professor of Medicine, Anatomy, and Surgery thus stalling the establishment of a specific surgical course in Edinburgh for many years. He was elected President of RCPE in 1779.

Monro also conducted a large private practice and continued to deliver his course single-handedly up until 1800, and from then until 1807 he shared the responsibility with his son Alexander Monro tertius (1773-1859). He gave his final lecture in 1808. He died on 2 October 1817.


Lisa Rosner 'Monro, Alexander, secundus (1733-1817)' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press, 2004. Osmond, Manjila, Malakooti, & Cohen 'The remarkable medical lineage of the Monro family' Journal of Neurosurgery 2012 116(6) pp.1337-1346.