Gairdner, William (DNB00)

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GAIRDNER, WILLIAM, M.D. (1793–1867), physician, son of Robert Gairdner of Mount Charles, Ayrshire, was born at Mount Charles on 11 Nov. 1793. After an education at the Ayr academy, he went in 1810 to the university of Edinburgh, where he graduated M.D. 13 Sept. 1813, taking dysentery as the subject of his inaugural dissertation. After further study in London he went abroad as physician to the Earl of Bristol. In 1822 he settled in London, where he had a house in Bolton Street, and in 1823 he was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians. In the following year he published an ‘Essay on the Effects of Iodine on the Human Constitution.’ Dr. Coindet of Geneva had in 1820 proposed to treat goitre and other glandular enlarge- ments by the internal administration of iodine, and this essay is written in support of Coindet's views. While advocating the use of iodine it describes more minutely than any previous English book the ill effects of large doses. Gairdner's practice grew slowly, and he did not attain success till after long struggles. In 1849 he published ‘On Gout, its History, its Causes, and its Cure,’ a work which had four editions, of which the last appeared in 1860. It is a lucid exposition of the main clinical features of the disease, without pathological information, while as to treatment it advocates bleeding, moderate purgation, and the administration of colchicum. The older he grew, the author says, the more did his confidence in drugs abate. He married, 12 Jan. 1822, a Genevese lady who died before him. He continued his practice almost to the end of his life, and died at Avignon, after spending a winter in the south of France, on 28 April 1857. He left one daughter. He was a small man with a florid complexion, and his hair became white at an early age. He was a new whig in politics, and had an independent, inflexible spirit, which, if it sometimes increased the difficulties of his life, also enabled him to conquer them.

[Munk's Coll. of Phys. iii. 265; Works; Lancet, 1867; information from family.]

N. M.