Lives of the fellows

Charles Murchison

b.26 July 1830 d.23 April 1879
MD Edin(1851) Hon LLD LRCS Edin FRCP(1859)

Charles Murchison, the younger son of the Hon. Alexander Murchison, M.D, was born in Jamaica but brought up at Elgin in Scotland. For two years he was an arts student at Aberdeen University, winning a prize for Greek. Then, in 1847, he began his medical studies at Edinburgh. He won distinction in botany, surgery and midwifery and obtained the M.D. degree in 1851. His first post was that of physician to the British Embassy in Turin, from which he returned, in 1852, to Edinburgh to be resident clinical physician at the Royal Infirmary. After visits to Dublin and Paris, he spent the years 1853-55 in the Bengal Medical Service, first as professor of chemistry at the Calcutta Medical College and then on an expedition to Burma. Settling in London, he was appointed physician to the Westminster General Dispensary and lecturer on botany at St. Mary’s Hospital. In 1856 he was made assistant physician at King’s College Hospital and, on resigning after four years, obtained a similar appointment, together with a lectureship on pathology, at the Middlesex Hospital, being raised to the status of physician in 1866. In 1856 Murchison became assistant physician at the London Fever Hospital, a post which enabled him to concentrate on fevers. He published, in 1862, A Treatise on the Continued Fevers of Great Britain. He also edited the Fever Hospital’s Annual Reports from 1861, the year in which he was promoted to physician, to 1869, and in this period translated Frerichs’ work on diseases of the liver (1861) and published his own Clinical Lectures on Diseases of the Liver, Jaundice and Abdominal Dropsy (1868).

In 1871 he resigned his appointments to become physician and joint lecturer on medicine on the re-organised staff of St. Thomas’s Hospital. He now came to the fore as a brilliant if dogmatic clinical teacher. Murchison gave the Croonian Lectures at the Royal College of Physicians in 1874 and acted as examiner on medicine at London University in 1875. He was president of the Pathological Society in the last two years of his life, and was appointed Physician-in-Ordinary to the Duke and Duchess of Connaught shortly before his death. Murchison was a thorough yet swift worker and a keen controversialist. Geology, natural history and fishing were his chief recreations. In his memory was founded the Murchison scholarship in medicine to be awarded in alternate years by the University of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians of London. He married in 1859 Clara Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Bickersteth, surgeon, of Liverpool, and had nine children.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1879; B.M.J., 1879; Lyle, 60; Parsons, iii, 190; D.N.B., xxxix, 316; Roll of I.M.S., 140]

(Volume IV, page 113)

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