MD Edin LRCS 1855; LSA 1857; MRCP 1878, FRCP 1885.
Thorburn was born in Huddersfield in 1834 and studied medicine at the Universities of Edinburgh, Paris and London. He held resident appointments at the Royal Infirmary and Royal Maternity Hospital in Edinburgh, and was president of the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh. Thorburn returned to Manchester, where he had grown up, and set up practice in Oxford Street in 1858. He was medical officer to the Chorlton Dispensary and in 1860 was elected to the staff of the Clinical Dispensary. Thorburn was influenced by the contemporary movement to specialisms, and joined with Henry Simpson to found the Manchester Southern Hospital for Women and Children in 1866, at which he was consulting physician. The same year Thorburn was also appointed lecturer on midwifery and diseases of women at the Royal School of Medicine. In 1873 Thorburn was appointed as the first obstetric physician to the MRI and with the amalgamation of the Royal School with Owens College was made chair of obstetric medicine. He was secretary to the MMS for a number of years and was president in 1871. He was also president of the Manchester Medico-Ethical Society. His pamphlet, Mode of admission to our medical charities, 1870, attracted widespread attention and paved the way for the development of provident dispensaries. He was also chairman of the publishing committee of the Medical Chronicle. Thorburn died on 26 May 1885, aged only 51. He was the father of Sir William Thorburn.