John Rutherford (1695-1779)

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John Rutherford (1695-1779) was Professor of the Practice of Physic at Edinburgh University from 1726 to 1766.

Rutherford was born on 1 August 1695 in Yarrow, Selkirkshire. He was educated in Selkirk and studied at Edinburgh University, 1709-1710, before being apprenticed to the surgeon Alexander Nesbit with whom he remained until 1716. A visit to London followed, with attendance at various hospitals and surgical and anatomical lectures. He then went to Leyden which had become famous through the medical teaching of Hermann Boerhaave (1668-1738). At Rheims, in France, in 1719, Rutherford obtained the degree of M.D. and then spent some time in Paris before returning to Britain.

He settled in Edinburgh in 1721 and started, with partners Andrew Sinclair (c1698-1760), Andrew Plummer (1697-1756), and John Innes (1696-1733), a laboratory for the preparation of compound medicines. On 9 February 1726, the four partners presented a petition to the Town Council, requesting that they 'institute the Profession of Medicine' at Edinburgh University and appoint the petitioners to teach the subject. The Town Council acceded to their request, appointing Sinclair and Rutherford as Professors of the Theory and Practice of Medicine and Plummer and Innes as Professors of Medicine and Chemistry. They were granted full power not only to teach medicine 'in all its branches' but to examine students and confer degrees in medicine. This Act is effectively the foundational charter of the Faculty of Medicine.

In 1748 Rutherford was given permission to deliver a course of clinical lectures in the Royal Infirmary. These proved to be popular, and so began the teaching relationship between the University and the Royal Infirmary which gave both a pre-eminence. Rutherford delivered his University lectures in Latin until 1765, when he resigned to be succeeded by Dr. John Gregory (1724-1773). Rutherford died in 1779 and was buried in the city's Greyfriars Churchyard on 10 March 1779. He was a grandfather of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), and was the father of Professor Daniel Rutherford (1749-1819), physician and botanist.