Practice of Physic Lectures of James Gregory

Scope and Content

Both volumes bear the bookplate of the Manchester Medical Society which indicate that they were donated by Thomas Windsor in May 1877 and further inscriptions on the inside covers indicate that they were allocated the reference GO 3795 viz. the Society's 1890 library catalogue. Throughout both volumes each individual lecture is clearly marked and dated and occasionally numbered.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Gregory was born in Aberdeen in January 1753 and was the son of the renowned physician John Gregory (1724-1773) and his wife Elizabeth. He received a classical education studying at Aberdeen grammar school, King's College Aberdeen, and Edinburgh University and also spent the year 1766/7 at Christ Church, Oxford, where his cousin was the dean. He returned to Edinburgh in 1767 to pursue a medical education and studied under many prestigious lecturers of the time, including his own father. John Gregory died in the midst of teaching his course, and consequently James suggested that he himself should complete the teaching. Even though he was still a student, permission was granted and he became a temporary professor.

Gregory was awarded his MD in June 1774 but continued his studies in continental Europe for a further two years, during which time he visited Leiden, Paris, and Italy. On his return he was elected as professor of the institutes of medicine in Edinburgh, a post which had become vacant when William Cullen gave it up to take up the professorship in the practice of physic left vacant by the death of John Gregory. From then on he played a prominent role in teaching and examinations, including clinical lectures at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, in addition to running a private practice.

William Cullen became ill in 1790 leading to Gregory being appointed joint professor of the practice of physic, but Cullen died very shortly afterwards making Gregory the sole occupant of the chair, a position he held for the rest of his life. Gregory was also a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and served as President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh from 1798 to 1801. In 1799 he was appointed as first physician to the king in Scotland, which was renewed by George IV in 1820. Gregory published widely on medicine as well as the classics, with one of his notable works being a textbook to accompany his lectures - Conspectus Medicinae Theoreticae, 1788. He was well-known publicly for the sale of a medicine bearing his name, Gregory's Powder, which supposedly acted as an antacid and cathartic.

Gregory married twice, firstly to Mary Ross who died in 1784 and with whom he had no children, and secondly to Isabella Macleod, with whom he had eleven children. An accident in 1818 in which Gregory was run over by a carriage left him with serious breathing problems and eventually led to his death on 2 April 1821 from a hydro-thorax.


Paul Lawrence, 'Gregory, James (1753-1821)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press, 2004.