Lives of the fellows

Alexander (Sir) Crichton

b.2 December 1763 d.4 June 1856
MD Leyden(1785) LRCP(1791)

Sir Alexander Crichton, M.D., was the second son of Mr. Alexander Crichton, of Woodhouselee and Newington, in Mid Lothian, and was born in Edinburgh, 2nd December, 1763. He received his general education in his native city, and was placed at an early age with Mr. Alexander Wood, a surgeon of much eminence in Edinburgh. At the termination of his apprenticeship in 1784, he came to London to continue his studies, and in the summer of the following year, passing over to Leyden, proceeded doctor of medicine there 29th July, 1785. From Leyden he went to Paris, to perfect himself in the French language, and improve his knowledge of medicine. Leaving Paris in 1786, he studied successively at Stuttgard, Vienna, and Halle, and during his stay in the last named university resided in the house of professor Meckel. Having visited Berlin and Gottingen he returned to London, and in May, 1789, became a member of the Corporation of Surgeons, and commenced business as a surgeon in London; but, disliking the operative part of that profession, he got himself disfranchised of the Surgeons’ company, and on the 25th June, 1791, was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians. In 1794 he was elected physician to the Westminster hospital, and during his connection with that institution lectured (as did his contemporary, Dr. George Fordyce) on the three subjects of chemistry, materia medica, and the practice of physic. In 1798 appeared his work on Mental Derangement, which gained him reputation at home and abroad. He was appointed physician to the duke of Cambridge, and in 1804 was offered the appointment of physician in ordinary to the emperor Alexander I of Russia. Dr. Crichton was graciously received in St. Petersburgh, and soon gained the full confidence and esteem of the emperor and of the several members of the imperial family. Within a few years he was appointed to the head of the whole Civil Medical Department; and in this capacity was much consulted by the dowager Empress, in the construction and regulation of many institutions which owe their origin to her active charity and watchful superintendence.

Dr. Crichton’s exertions to mitigate the horrors of an epidemic, which was devastating the south-eastern provinces of Russia in 1809, were most exemplary, and were fully acknowledged by the emperor, who conferred on him the knight grand cross of the order of St. Anne and St. Vladimir, third class; and in 1814 for his long and faithful services that of the second class.

Having obtained leave of absence on account of the state of his health, Dr. Crichton returned to this country in the spring of 1819; but in the following year was recalled to Russia to take charge of the grand duchess Alexandra, whom he accompanied on her convalescence to Berlin, where he stayed for a short time, and then returned to his family. On the 27th December, 1820, Frederic William III of Prussia created him knight grand cross of the Red Eagle, second class; and in 1821 he was knighted by George IV, and obtained the royal permission to wear his foreign orders. (1) Sir Alexander Crichton died at Sevenoaks, Kent, 4th June, 1856, at the patriarchal age of ninety-two, having been for many years the senior licentiate of the College. He was buried in the cemetery at Norwood. He was the author of—
An Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Mental Derangement, comprehending a Concise System of the Physiology and Pathology of the Human Mind; and, A History of the Passions and their Effects, 2 vols. 8vo. Lond. 1798.
A Synoptical Table of Diseases, exhibiting their Arrangement in Classes, Orders, Genera, and Species, designed for the use of Students. Lond. 1805.
An Account of some Experiments with the Vapour of Tar in the Cure of Pulmonary Consumption. 8vo. Edinb. 1817.
On the Treatment and Cure of Pulmonary Consumption. 8vo. Lond. 1823.
Commentaries on some Doctrines of a Dangerous Tendency in Medicine, and on the General Principles of Safe Practice. 8vo. Lond. 1842.

William Munk

[(1) Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, vol. viii, p, 269]

(Volume II, page 416)

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