1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Christison, Sir Robert

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CHRISTISON, SIR ROBERT, Bart. (1797–1882), Scottish toxicologist and physician, was born in Edinburgh on the 18th of July 1797. After graduating at the university of that city in 1819, he spent a short time in London, studying under John Abernethy and Sir William Lawrence, and in Paris, where he learnt analytical chemistry from P. J. Robiquet and toxicology from M. J. B. Orfila. In 1822 he returned to Edinburgh as professor of medical jurisprudence, and set to work to organize the study of his subject on a sound basis. On poisons in particular he speedily became a high authority; his well-known treatise on them was published in 1829, and in the course of his inquiries he did not hesitate to try such daring experiments on himself as taking large doses of Calabar bean. His attainments in medical jurisprudence and toxicology procured him the appointment, in 1829, of medical officer to the crown in Scotland, and from that time till 1866 he was called as a witness in many celebrated criminal cases. In 1832 he gave up the chair of medical jurisprudence and accepted that of medicine and therapeutics, which he held till 1877; at the same time he became professor of clinical medicine, and continued in that capacity till 1855. His fame as a toxicologist and medical jurist, together with his work on the pathology of the kidneys and on fevers, secured him a large private practice, and he succeeded to a fair share of the honours that commonly attend the successful physician, being appointed physician to Queen Victoria in 1848 and receiving a baronetcy in 1871. Among the books which he published were a treatise on Granular Degeneration of the Kidneys (1839), and a Commentary on the Pharmacopoeias of Great Britain (1842). Sir Robert Christison, who retained remarkable physical vigour and activity down to extreme old age, died at Edinburgh on the 23rd of January 1882.

See the Life by his sons (1885–1886).