Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Miller, James (1812-1864)

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MILLER, JAMES (1812–1864), surgeon, born at the manse, Essie, Forfarshire, 2 April 1812, was third son of the Rev. James Miller (1777–1860). His mother was Barbara, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin of Monimail in Fife (Hew Scott, Fasti Eccl. Scotic. pt. vi. p. 727). He was taught by his father, and in 1824 was sent to St. Andrews University, where in three winter sessions he completed his general education. In 1827 he became a pupil of Dr. Ramsay of Dundee, but later in the same year he was transferred to Mr. Mackenzie of Edinburgh, and entered upon the ordinary course of a medical student. He obtained the license of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1832, and he was subsequently elected a fellow. He acted for many years as an assistant to Robert Liston [q. v.], and on the removal of that surgeon to London in 1834 Miller succeeded to the more lucrative part of his practice. In 1842 he was appointed professor of surgery in the university of Edinburgh, in succession to Sir Charles Bell [q. v.] In 1848 he was surgeon in ordinary in Scotland to the queen and Prince Albert. He was also surgeon, and later consulting surgeon, to the Royal Infirmary, professor of pictorial anatomy to the School of Design at the Royal Institution, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

At the disruption of the presbyterian church in Scotland, Miller, like his father, who since 1827 had been minister of Monikie, sided with the free kirk party, and rendered it substantial service by speech and pen. Although he held the position of professor of surgery in Edinburgh, Miller practised both as a physician and as an operating surgeon, and it is rather remarkable that, in spite of his long association with Liston, Miller, even in his youth, was conservative in his methods, only re sorting to the knife when all other treatment had failed. He proved himself a dexterous operator, and especially prided himself upon the manner in which he performed lithotomy. In his latter years Miller devoted much of his time to religious and social questions, and became an ardent advocate of temperance. He died on 17 June 1864, and is buried in the Grange cemetery in Edinburgh. In 1836 he married Penelope Garden Campbell Gordon, by whom he had issue.

He was author of: 1. 'Probationary Essay on the Dressing of Wounds,’ Edinburgh, 1840; his thesis for the fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. 2. ‘Principles of Surgery.’ 3. ‘Practice of Surgery.’ These two works ran concurrently through several editions in Edinburgh and in America. They were edited for America by Dr. Sargent of Philadelphia. They appeared first in 12mo, Edinburgh, 1844 and 1846; 2nd edit. 8vo, 1850 and 1852; 3rd edit. 1853 and 1856. They were finally amalgamated into: 4. ‘A System of Surgery,’ Edinburgh, 1864. It is by these works that Miller became extensively known as a surgeon outside the university in which he taught. The articles on ‘Surgery’ in the 7th and 8th editions of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica’ were from his pen. He wrote numerous pamphlets and addresses on social, religious, and professional topics.

There is a bust of Miller by Sir John Steell in the Medical Mission House, 56 George Square, Edinburgh.

[Obituary notices in Edinburgh Medical Journal, 1864, x. 92–6, and Medical Times and Gazette, 1864, i. 695, 705; additional information kindly supplied to the writer by Dr. A. G. Miller.]

D’A. P.