Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hamilton, James (1749-1835)

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HAMILTON, JAMES, the elder (1749–1835), physician, son of Robert Hamilton (d. 1787), professor of divinity at Edinburgh, was born at Edinburgh in 1749, and studied medicine there and on the continent. He early became physician to the Royal Infirmary, to George Heriot's Hospital, and other hospitals in Edinburgh, and had a large practice. He died at Edinburgh on 27 Oct. 1835. For many years he was a picturesque figure in the city, retaining very old-fashioned manners and dress; he is said to have been the last person who wore the three-cornered cocked hat. He was most noted for his work entitled 'Observations on the Utility and Administration of Purgative Medicines,' 1805; 8th edit. 1826. Numerous American editions were also published, and it was translated into Italian, German, and French. Hamilton was thoroughly old-fashioned in his treatment, believing in free blood-letting and profuse purging, and in strong mercurial treatment for syphilis. He was very jocular, kind-hearted, and athletic. There are amusing accounts of him in the 'Lives' of Sir Astley Cooper and Sir R. Christison, and in Kay's 'Edinburgh Portraits.' Till lately the works of three James Hamiltons were catalogued as by one man in the 'British Museum Catalogue:' (1) the above-mentioned, always known as James Hamilton, senior; (2) James Hamilton, junior [q. v.], who lived next door to him in St. Andrew's Square, Edinburgh; and (3) James Hamilton, M.D. (1740-1827), successively of Dunbar, Edinburgh, Leeds, and London, a friend of John Wesley, who is depicted with him in a well-known print by Kay.

[Gent. Mag. 1836, i. 102; W. Newbigging, Harveian Oration, Edinburgh, 1838; Life of Sir Astley Cooper, i. 164, 165; Life of Sir R. Christison, i. 140, 141; Sir A. Grant's Story of Edinburgh Univ.; Old and New Edinburgh, ii. 139, 168, 301; Dechambre's Dict. Encycl. des Sciences Medicales, 4th ser. vol. xii.]

G. T. B.