Coldstream, John (DNB00)

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COLDSTREAM, JOHN (1806–1863), physician, only son of Robert Coldstream, merchant, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Phillips of Stobcross, Glasgow, was born at Leith 19 March 1806, and after attending the high school, Edinburgh, continued his studies at the university. He early took an interest in Bible and missionary societies, and in 1822 wrote the report of the Leith Juvenile Bible Society. On his selection of the medical profession he became apprentice to Dr. Charles Anderson, an eminent practitioner in Leith, and one of the founders of the Wernerian Society. His great love of natural history led to his election as a member of the Plinian Society, 18 March 1823; he acted as secretary and treasurer the same year, and was chosen one of the presidents in 1824 and 1825. In 1827 he graduated M.D. at the university of Edinburgh, and took his diploma at the Royal College of Surgeons, and then proceeded to Paris to continue his medical education. In 1828 he declined an offer of the post of assistant in the Natural History Institution at Portsmouth, and in 1829 settled down as a practitioner in Leith. On 9 Jan. 1830 he was enrolled a member of the Wernerian Society. About 1840 the subject of medical missions began to occupy the attention of professional men. Coldstream was one of the first to recognise their value and importance, and never ceased to labour for them. With his friend, Mr. Benjamin Bell, he became associated secretary of the Medical Missionary Society. In 1845 he was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, but scarcely took any part in their proceedings, and in October 1846 he greatly aided in establishing at Leith a hospital for the sick poor. He removed to York Place, Edinburgh, in 1847, his weak health no longer being equal to the incessant toils of a practice at Leith. His interest in the treatment and education of imbeciles led to the establishment in 1855 of the Home and School for Invalid and Imbecile Children in Grayfield Square, Edinburgh, and here for nearly five years he was almost a daily visitor. In September 1857 he went to Berlin to attend the meeting of the Evangelical Alliance, and to bring to its notice the cause of medical missions. During the winter of 1858–9 the illness began which eventually proved fatal, an organic disease of the stomach; however, he was well enough to deliver a course of lectures on ethnography in the winter of 1859–60. After this the state of his health obliged him to move about from place to place, and he died at Irthing House, near Carlisle, 17 Sept. 1863. He was a deeply religious man.

He married, 7 May 1835, Margaret, youngest daughter of the Rev. William Menzies of Lanark, by whom he had a family of ten children.

He was the author of: 1. ‘De Indole Morborum Periodica utpote Sideribus orta,’ 1827. 2. ‘An Account of the Topography, Climate, and State of the Town of Torquay,’ 1833. 3. ‘The Abendberg, an Alpine Retreat, by G.L. of Geneva, with an introduction by J. Coldstream,’ 1848. 4. ‘On the Responsibilities attaching to the Profession of Medicine,’ Lecture 6 in ‘Lectures on Medical Missions,’ 1849. 5. ‘Notice of Attempts made to improve the Condition of the Fatuous,’ 1850. 6. ‘On a Case of Catalepsy,’ 1854. 7. ‘History of the Medical Missions in Addresses to Medical Students,’ 1856. He was also a contributor to the transactions of the Plinian, Wernerian, Royal Medical, Edinburgh Medical and Surgical, and other societies.

[Balfour's Biography of J. Coldstream, 1865 (with portrait); Sketch of Life of J. Coldstream, Edinburgh, 1877; Dr. J. Coldstream, the Christian Physician, London, 1877 (with portrait); Index Catalogue of Library of Surgeon-General's Office (1882), iii. 259; Catalogue of Scientific Papers, ii. 12.]

G. C. B.