Andrew Duncan (1744-1828)

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Andrew Duncan was born at Pinkerton, near St. Andrews on 17 October 1744. His father was a merchant and shipmaster at Crail and then St. Andrews. The young Andrew was educated in Crail and then in St. Andrews, and he studied at St. Andrews University obtaining an M.A. in 1762. That same year he entered the University of Edinburgh as a medical student. During his studies, in 1764, he became President of the Royal Medical Society.

On completion of his studies in 1768, Duncan went to China as a ship's surgeon for the East India Company. On his return in 1769 he graduated with the degree of M.D. at St. Andrews University. In 1770, he became a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, and the same year he tried unsuccessfully for a professorship in St. Andrews. However, when Dr. Drummond the Professor-elect of Medicine at Edinburgh University fell ill, during his absence Duncan was appointed to lecture there from 1774. When Drummond failed to return, he was elected Professor.

Duncan then began a public dispensary which later became the Royal Public Dispensary. In 1789, he was appointed to the Chair of the Institutes of Medicine (physiology). Beginninghe same year, he was first in Britain to lecture in forensic medicine, beginning. In 1790 he became President of the Royal College of Physicians.

Moved by the death of the poet Robert Fergusson (1750-1774), Duncan was instrumental in the foundation of Edinburgh Lunatic Asylum, the building of which was begun in 1809 (In 1922 it became the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Mental and Nervous Disorders, and today is known simply as the Royal Edinburgh Hospital).

In 1819, Andrew Duncan junior (1773-1832) was appointed to assist him in his Professorship, and in 1821 he became the first Physician to the King (or Queen) in Scotland. That same year he became President of the Edinburgh Medico-Chirurgical Society.

During his career, Duncan began publication of the quarterly Medical and philosophical commentaries (1773-1795) which went on to become Annals of medicine, and he also published Elements of therapeutics (1770), The new dispensatory (1786), and Observations on the distinguishing symptoms of three different species of pulmonary consumption (1813).

Professor Andrew Duncan died on 5 July 1828.