Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hamilton, Alexander (1739-1802)

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HAMILTON, ALEXANDER (1739–1802), professor of midwifery in Edinburgh University, was born in 1739 at Fordoun, Kincardineshire, where his father, a retired army surgeon, practised. In 1758 he became assistant to John Straiton, surgeon, of Edinburgh; on his master's death in 1762 he was admitted member of the Edinburgh College of Surgeons, and commenced to practise. He afterwards obtained a medical degree, and was admitted a licentiate, and subsequently fellow, of the Edinburgh College of Physicians. In 1777, as deacon of the Edinburgh College of Surgeons, he made a strenuous effort to get surgery taught in the university by a separate professor, but failed, owing to the opposition of Monro secundus. After lecturing on midwifery with success for some years, he was in 1780 appointed joint professor of midwifery in the university of Edinburgh with Dr. Thomas Young, and sole professor in 1783 on Young's death. Through his exertions the Lying-in Hospital was established in 1791. He was a successful practitioner and writer on midwifery. [For details respecting the accusation made by Dr. James Gregory in 1792 that Hamilton was the author of a pamphlet on the ‘Study of Medicine in Edinburgh University,’ which Hamilton denied, see Gregory, James (1753–1821) and Hamilton, James, jun. (d. 1839).] Hamilton resigned his professorship in 1800, and died on 23 May 1802. His sons James (d. 1839) and Henry Parr are separately noticed.

Hamilton wrote:

  1. 'Elements of the Practice of Midwifery,' London, 1775.
  2. 'A Treatise of Midwifery, comprehending the whole Management of Female Complaints and Treatment of Children in early Infancy,' Edinburgh, 1780; translated into German by J.P. Ebeling.
  3. 'Outlines of the Theory and Practice of Midwifery,' Edinburgh, 1784; 5th edit. 1803.
  4. 'Smellie's Anatomical Tables; with Abridgment of the Practice of Midwifery,' revised, with notes and illustrations, Edinburgh, 1786.
  5. 'Treatise on the Management of Female Complaints, and of Children in Early Infancy,' Edinburgh, 1792; 7th edit, revised by James Hamilton the younger, 1813; French translation, 1798.
  6. 'Letter to Dr. William Osborn on certain Doctrines contained in his Essays on the Practice of Midwifery,' Edinburgh, 1792.

[Anderson's Scottish Nation, ii. 446; Prof. A. R. Simpson's Lecture on the Hist. of the Chair of Midwifery, 1883; Kay's Edinburgh Portraits; J. Gairdner on Hist. of Medical Profession in Edinburgh (Edinburgh Med. Jour.), 1862, p. 700; Grant's Story of Edinburgh University, i. 322, ii. 416.]

G. T. B.