Lectures of Professor James Hamilton (1767-1839)

Scope and Content

Professor Hamilton's manuscript lectures dated over the period 5 January to 29 January 1802 are contained within a bound notebook at MS 2684. The lectures cover diseases of pregnancy, nurses, abortions, and extra-uterine conception. There are also notes of Hamilton's lectures on midwifery taken down in shorthand, Dc.3.74.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Hamilton was born in Edinburgh in 1767. He was one of two sons of Alexander Hamilton (1739-1802), Professor of Midwifery at Edinburgh University. James Hamilton was given medical training by his father and became his assistant at the age of twenty-one. He and his father founded Edinburgh's Lying-in Hospital in Park Place in 1793, and later on this enterprise would become supported partly from his own funds. In 1800, Hamilton succeeded his father as Professor of Midwifery at the University. Their subject however had been slow to be accepted by the Senate as part of the medical curriculum and in 1815 Hamilton raised the matter of recognition for midwifery. He faced hostility however, particularly from Dr. James Gregory (1753-1821), and recognition would not be achieved until 1830.

Although his classes were, for a long time, non-essential for graduation, they were well attended, and Hamilton's contribution to midwifery included advocacy of uterine suture after Caesarian operations and the introduction of the term 'eclampsia' for convulsions in labour or peurperium.

Hamilton's publications included A collection of engravings designed to facilitate the study of midwifery (1796), Hints for the treatment of the principal diseases of infancy and childhood (1809), and Practical observations on various subjects relating to midwifery (1836-1837).

Professor James Hamilton died in November 1839.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Notes written by Thomas Barnes were presented by Dr. Henry Barnes, 1910. Lectures written by Adam Black were purchased from P.M. Pollock in June 1987 with Accession no. E.87.69.


The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Stephen, Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.8. Glover-Harriott. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908. (2) Burnett, John H. (et al.). The university portraits. 2nd series. pp.108-109. (3) Material in Catalogue 42. P. M. Pollack. History of Medicine and Science. 1987.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Material

The local Indexes show other references to material relating to Professor James Hamilton, including: midwifery certificates, diploma in obstetrics granted to another, letter, and mention in a letter (check the Indexes for more details). In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: correspondence and papers, 1803-39, at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Ref. Hamilton NRA 16015 Coll. of Physicians; notes taken from lectures on midwifery given by Hamilton and his father, circa 1792-93, British Library, Manuscript Collections, Ref. Add MSS 45919-20.