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Douglas, James

1. Dates
Born: Baads (or Badds), near Edinburgh, March 1675 He was baptized on 21 March.
Died: London, 2 April 1742
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 67
2. Father
Occupation: Gentry
William Douglas was the largest landowner in the district.
Nothing explicit is said about his financial status. Nevertheless, in addition to his status as the largest landowner in the district is the fact that all the sons in a large family (12 children) received education for a professional career. I do not see how we can imagine him less than affluent.
3. Nationality
Birth: Scottish
Career: English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: Edinburgh; Rheims, M.D.
M.A. likely in Edinburgh, 1694. The M.A. was the basic degree in a Scottish university; I count it as equivalent to a B.A.
M.D. from the University of Rheims, 1699. No evidence shows he studied medicine there.
As in such cases, I assume a B.A. or its equivalent.
His own papers whow that he was in Utrecht in 1698. Though he may have studied medicine there, the university records contain no trace of him.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
By assumption; I found nothing whatever said about his religion except that he was buried in an Anglican church in London.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Anatomy, Surgery
Subordinate: Medicine, Botany, Zoology
In 1707 Douglas published a handbook on comparative myology, probably related to the anatomical lectures he was delivering at that time--Myographiae comparatae specimen. He also did a number of other anatomical works (some as papers in the Philosophical Transactions), and in 1730 his most important work, A Description of the Peritoneum. Several anatomical features still bear his name, especially the pouch of Douglas. His Bibliographiae anatomicae, 1715, was a list of writers on anatomy. A large work Osteographia, manuscripts for which survive, would apparently have been a landmark.
A paper delivered to the Royal Society defined the possibility of the so-called high operation for the stone, which his brother then performed. Douglas wrote a History of Lithotomy (in manuscript) and The History of the Lateral Operation (for the stone), published, 1726.
He wrote some works, which remain in manuscript form, on medicine, especially diseases of women, and he kept extensive case histories, many of which survive.
Index materiae medicae, 1724--his own prescriptions, but not, I gather, important in the history of pharmacology.
Douglas wrote a number of papers on specific plants, on their growth and their anatomy. He also published some on animal specimens, especially one on the flamingo.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine
Secondary: Schoolmastering, Patronage, Scientific Society
Medical and obstetrical practice in London, 1699 (perhaps 1700)-1742. By all accounts he was quite successful.
He gave private lessons in anatomy, 1706-42.
He became the physician to a number of aristocrats and in 1727 the private physician to the Queen. For attending the royal couple's daughter in a pregnancy in 1735, he received a pension of L500.
In 1707 Douglas was the paid anatomy demonstrator at the Royal Society. For reasons unknown he arrangement did not become permanent.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Aristrocrat, Physician
He was acquainted with the royal family in 1720s, and became physician extraordinary to the Queen in 1727. He was sent to the Netherlands in 1735 to attend Anne, the daughter of George II and the Princess of Orange, in a pregnancy (or, as it turned out, suspected pregnancy). The King bestowed a pension of L500 on him as a reward.
George II gave Douglas a gratuity of L500 to encourage his publication of Osteographia. The work was in fact never published.
By 1712 Douglas' practice included a large number of aristocrats.
He dedicated Description of the Peritoneum to Dr. Richard Mead.
Like other prosperous men, Douglas became a small patron himself. His younger brother dedicated a book to him. (The letter of dedication is a nice specimen of the art.) So did two pupils in anatomy. Douglas collected Horace, and in 1741 a translation of Horace was dedicated to him.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
See above.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Royal Society, Medical College
Informal Connections: Strong influence on William Hunter, his resident, pupil, and close friend, 1741-2. After Douglas' death, Hunter lived in his home for 7 years and continued his master's anatomical research.
Association with Hans Sloane, William Cowper, Richard Mead, and especially with Cheselden in 1720s and 1730s. Some of the correspondence with Sloane, at least, survives.
Friendship with A. Pitcairn, his medical teacher, 1690s.
He was in correspondence with a number of botanists and naturalists.
Royal Society, 1706-42. On the Council 1726-9 and 1741-2. Croonian Lecturer, 1741.
Royal College of Physicians, 1721-42.
Douglas delivered the Gale Osteology Lecture to the Company of Barber Surgeons in 1712.
  1. K. Bryn Thomas, James Douglas of the Pouch and his Pupil William Hunter, (London, 1964).
  2. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-1950), 5, 1234-5. William Munk, The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London, 2nd ed., 3 vols. (London, 1878), 2, 77-9.
  3. Helen Brock, "James Douglas of the Pouch," Medical History, 18 (1974), 162-72.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. C.H. Brock, "James Douglas (1675-1742), Botanist," Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History, 9 (1979), 137-45.
  2. _____, "The Rediscovery of James Douglas," The Bibliotheck, 8 (1977), 168-76.
  3. Wilhelm Overhoff, John Douglas, Chirurg und Lithotomist, (Leipzig, 1937). Note that this is primarily about the brother, not about James Douglas.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

1995 Al Van Helden
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