Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Home, Francis

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HOME, FRANCIS (1719–1813), professor of materia medica at Edinburgh, third son of an advocate residing at Eccles, Berwickshire, was born on 17 Nov. 1719. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University, and was one of the founders of the Royal Medical Society there. From 1742 to 1748 he served as surgeon of dragoons in Flanders in the seven years' war, studying at Leyden during the intervals of the campaigns. Leaving the army, he graduated M.D. at Edinburgh in 1750, with a treatise on intermittent fever, and became a fellow of the Edinburgh College of Physicians. After practising medicine for some years at Edinburgh, and obtaining in 1757 a gold medal for an essay on the principles of agriculture, given by the Edinburgh Society for the Improvement of Arts and Manufactures, he was appointed in 1768 the first professor of materia medica in the university, the subject being then dissociated from botany. He held this post till 1798, and as one of the clinical professors of medicine at the infirmary experimented on the actions of several novel drugs, which he introduced into practice. He first called attention to croup as a distinct disease in his tractate on the subject, which Dr. Squire, in Reynolds's ‘System of Medicine,’ 1866, i. 236, terms a ‘careful and most philosophical inquiry,’ deciding the dependence of the symptoms on pathological changes in the larynx and trachea. As a professor he speculated somewhat rashly, but carefully treated the physical characters and mode of administration of drugs. His ‘Principia Medicinæ’ was a valuable work in its day, and was used as a text-book by several continental professors. He died on 15 Feb. 1813, aged 93. His son James is separately noticed.

Home wrote: 1. ‘Dissertatio de Febre Intermittente,’ Edinburgh, 1750, 4to; republished in Smellie's ‘Thesaurus Medicus,’ 1778. 2. ‘Experiments on Bleaching’ (an essay to which a gold medal was awarded by the trustees for the improvement of manufactures in North Britain, and which was translated into French and German), Edinburgh, 1756. 3. ‘The Principles of Agriculture and Vegetation,’ Edinburgh, 1757; 3rd edition, 1759; French translation, Paris, 1761; German translation, Berlin, 1779. 4. ‘Principia Medicinæ,’ Edinburgh, 1758; 3rd edition, 1770. 5. ‘Medical Facts and Experiments,’ Edinburgh, 1759. 6. ‘An Inquiry into the Nature, Cause, and Cure of the Croup,’ Edinburgh, 1765; French translation, 1810, by F. Ruette. 7. ‘Methodus Materiæ Medicæ,’ Edinburgh, 1770, 12mo. 8. ‘Clinical Experiments, Histories, and Dissections,’ Edinburgh, 1780; 3rd edition, London, 1783.

[Kay's Edinburgh Portraits, 1838, i. 249; Sir A. Grant's Story of Edinburgh University, ii. 424.]

G. T. B.