Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/244

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38 DR. MONRO, PRIMUS.


work on the bones, a sketch of which he read before a society of young surgeons and physicians, of which he had been elected a member. Before his return, his father had presented several of his preparations to the college, so that his skill was already well known. The titular professor of anatomy to the college of surgeons had even formed the resolution of relinquishing his appointment in favour of this promising young anatomist, who, he thought, would be able to convert it into a useful profession. Accordingly, on his arrival in Edinburgh, in 1719, when only twenty-two years of age, he was nominated to this dignity. Early in the ensuing year, he commenced the first regular course of anatomical and chirurgical lectures and demonstrations, which were ever delivered in that city. From his abilities and zeal, and the preparations with which he illustrated his discourses, success could hardly fail to attend his labours. It could not, how- ever, be expected that an anatomical and surgical course alone, however valu- able, or a single professor, however great his abilities, could be sufficient to raise the fame of a medical school, which had to combat many rival seminaries of deserved eminence. It became, therefore, a matter of the utmost consequence to obtain such associates as could second and support his labours. His father, to whose zeal for the establishment of a medical school in Edinburgh, much of his son's success is to be attributed, prevailed on Dr Alston, then king's botanist for Scotland, to begin a course of lectures on the materia medica. He also took an expedient for improving his son's mode of lecturing. Without the young teacher's knowledge, he invited the president and fellows of the college of phy- sicians, and the whole company of surgeons, to honour the first day's lecture with their presence. This unexpected company threw the doctor into such confusion, that he forgot the words of the discourse, which he had written and committed to memory. Having left his papers at home, he was at a loss for a little time what to do; but, with much presence of mind, he immediately began to show some of the anatomical preparations, in order to gain time for recollec- tion ; and very soon resolved not to attempt to repeat the discourse which he had prepared, but to express himself in such language as should occur to him from the subject, which he was confident that he understood. The experiment succeeded ; he delivered himself well, and gained great applause as a good and ready speaker. Thus discovering his own strength, he resolved henceforth never to recite any written discourse in teaching, and acquired a free and ele- gant style of delivering lectures.

The want of lectures on other branches, which still remained as an obstacle to the creation of a medical school, was soon altogether overcome by the zeal of the elder Monro, through whose influence his son and Dr Alston were put upon the college establishment, together with co-operative lectureships, undertaken by Drs Sinclair, Rutherford, and Plumer. Such was the origin of the medical school of Edinburgh, which for a century has been one of the most eminent and most frequented in Europe. The system was completed in the course of a few years, by the establishment of the Royal Infirmary at Edinburgh, which was chiefly urged forward by Dr Monro, with a view to the advantage of his pupils, and by George Drummond, the lord provost of the city. In this institution, Dr Monro commenced clinical lectures on the surgical, and Rutherford a similar course on the medical cases. The former, in his various capacities of physician, lecturer, and manager, took an active part in the whole business of the Infir- mary. He personally attended the opening of every body ; and he not only dictated to the students an accurate report of the dissection, but, with nice dis- crimination, contrasted the diseased and sound state of every organ. Thus, in his own person, he afforded to the students a conspicuous example of the ad- vantages of early anatomical pursuits, as the happiest foundation for a medical