Notes from Lectures by George Fordyce

Administrative / Biographical History

George Fordyce (1736-1802) was born in Aberdeen on 18 November 1736 the posthumous son of George Fordyce. He studied at Aberdeen University becoming a master of arts at the young age of 14 before going to stay with his physician uncle Dr John Fordyce to begin studying medicine. Some years later he continued his studies in Edinburgh where he was a popular student of William Cullen (1710-1790) and gained his MD on 13 October 1758. From here he went straight to London to study anatomy and botany before proceeding to Leiden in 1759 to study under Albinus (1697-1770) and Gaubius (1705-1780).

Returning to London he settled in Essex Street, The Strand and immediately began teaching chemistry and by 1764 had expanded his teaching to include the practice of physic and the materia medica. His lectures quickly grew in popularity and his courses would each last for four months and be repeated three times a year. This continued for the best part of thirty years during which time Fordyce would have taught thousands of students.

He became a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in 1765 and a fellow in 1787. Here he used his expert knowledge of chemistry and the materia medica to play a significant role in the preparation of a new edition of the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis. In 1765 he also became physician to St Thomas's Hospital although reports by contemporaries, including Sir Astley Cooper (1768-1841), describe him as having a somewhat terse and brusque manner when it came to the treatment of patients.

Fordyce published several papers and books during his career, was elected to the Literary Club in 1774, became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1776, and was involved in the founding of the Lyceum Medicum Londinense in 1785 as well as the establishment of the Society for the Improvement of Medical and Chirurgical Knowledge in 1793.

He died on 25 May 1802 at his home in Essex Street, London at the age of 65.


N.G. Coley, 'Fordyce, George (1736-1802)' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press, 2004. William Munk, 'George Fordyce' Munk's Roll Volume II p.373.