Abernethy's Surgical Lectures and Rutherford & Home's Clinical Lectures

Scope and Content

The volume has the original pagination pp.1-434 and the volume is split into three sections with the surgical lectures of John Abernethy (1764-1831) covering pp.1-156 & his anatomical lectures covering pp. 201-240, the lectures of Daniel Rutherford (1749-1819) covering pp.241-336, and the lectures of James Home (1760-1844) on pp.337-433 which continue on pp.158-200.

Abernethy's lectures are largely defined and numbered throughout but very rarely dated and an index to all of his lectures in this volume can be found in the rear. The first six pages are dedicated to additional notes on Abernethy's lecture on inflammation found on p.82, the notes then begin from the 2nd lecture and are as follows: (2) of general constitutional affection produced by local disease, (3) nervous complaints, (4) effects on stomach and bowels, (5) great influence of disordered digestive organs on local disease, (6) on the resolution of inflammation, (7) chronic inflammation & abscess, (8) lumbar abscess, (9) of mortification & erysipelas, (10-13) these lectures appear to be missing but there is a note to see his printed work for lectures on tumours [neoplasms], (14) absorption, (15) ulceration, (16-17) local injuries mechanical or clinical, (18) chemical injuries, (19) on poisons, (20) pseudo-syphilis, (21) pseudo-syphilis cont. and gonorrhoea, (22) consequences of the clap, (23) inefficacy of bongies and on caustic strictures. Numbering of lectures appears to finish here but notes continue on the subjects of urine retention, poison of rabid animals, diseases of the skin, and diseases of the eye.

The second set of Abernethy's lectures appear to be incomplete but are as follows: (2) animal matter, (3) of blood vessels, (4) circulation and absorbents, (5) of the pulse, (6) of bones, (7) diseases of bones, (18) structure of joints, (21) on the ear, (22) of the skin, (unnumbered) wry neck [torticollis], uvula, and morbid anatomy of the brain.

Rutherford's clinical lectures are numbered 1-23 and often dated. These would have been more practical lectures given on dedicated wards in the Edinburgh Infirmary and the notes describe individual named cases. These examples of common diseases and accidents would have been used to teach and demonstrate to students the causes, symptoms, and common treatments as opposed to traditional classroom lecturing. Home's clinical lectures are structured in the same way as Rutherford's, numbered 1-21, and usually dated. The date of the first lecture shows that he carries on straight from Rutherford's last lecture and we know it to have been common practice at the time in Edinburgh for lecturers to split the teaching session of clinical lectures in half.

The volume bears the bookplate of the Manchester Medical Society which indicates that it was donated to them by Thomas Windsor on 11 February 1878 where it was subsequently allocated the reference GO 4067 viz. their 1890 library catalogue. A note on the flyleaf made by the author reads 'John Windsor, Settle, Yorkshire, Tuesday Oct 20th 1812'.

Administrative / Biographical History

Daniel Rutherford was born in Edinburgh on 3 November 1749, the son of the Professor of the Practice of Medicine in Edinburgh, John Rutherford, and Anne Mackay. He first obtained an MA from the University of Edinburgh before commencing his medical studies for which he received an MD on 12 September 1772 with the dissertation 'De aere fixo dicto aut mephitico', which outlined the isolation of what is now called nitrogen, and was published the same year.

Following a brief period of travel in England, France, and Italy, Rutherford began to practise in Edinburgh in 1775, became a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh on 6 February 1776, and a fellow on 6 May 1777. He served as president of the College from December 1796 to December 1798. In 1786 he was appointed as Professor of Botany and Medicine at the University where he was also Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh and the King's Botanist in Scotland, even though he was not well renowned for his botany teaching. In 1791 he was elected as physician-in-ordinary to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where he gave clinical lectures in conjunction with Andrew Duncan and Francis Home. Rutherford was a member of the Aesculapian, Harveian, and Gymnastics clubs in addition to being a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1788) and of the Linnaean Society (1796).

Rutherford died quite suddenly and unexpectedly in Edinburgh on 15 November 1819, leaving behind his wife Harriet Mitchelson and three surviving children.

See entry MMM/4/1/4 for biographical details of John Abernethy and entry MMM/4/1/9 for biographical details of James Home.


B.B. Woodward, Rutherford, daniel (1749-1819)', rev. Alexandra M. Lord Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/24361, accessed 28 June 2016].Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783-2002, Biographical Index Part 2 (Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2006).