Lives of the fellows

Alexander Russell

d.28th Nov 1768
MD

Alexander Russell, M.D., was born in Edinburgh, and was the son of a lawyer of eminence in that city. He was educated at the High school of Edinburgh, and then passed two years in attendance on the general classes of the university. He began the study of medicine under his uncle, one of the most eminent practitioners in Edinburgh, and in 1732 began to attend the lectures of the medical professors. Having finished his studies at Edinburgh, though without applying for a degree, he in 1735 came to London, and ere long embarked for Turkey, and about the year 1740 settled at Aleppo, to the English factory at which place he was for several years physician. On arriving in Turkey, Dr. Russell immediately applied himself to the study of the language, and, soon overcoming every difficulty, commenced practice at Aleppo with greater advantages than had ever before fallen to the lot of any Christian physician. He was consulted by all ranks and professions—Franks, Greeks, Armenians, Jews, and Turks. In this instance they forgot that he was an unbeliever, remitted of their usual contempt for strangers, and not only beheld him with respect, but courted his friendship, and placed unlimited confidence in his opinion. The pasha of Aleppo particularly distinguished him, and this intimacy enabled the doctor to render important services to the factory. Dr. Russell returned to England in February, 1755, and in that year published his " Natural History of Aleppo," 4to., a work of standard authority and acknowledged merit, to the preparation of which he was mainly incited by his friend and correspondent, Dr. Fothergill. His character was at once established by this work, and he determined on settling in the metropolis. In 1757, when the government was alarmed with the report that plague had broken out at Lisbon, and was solicitous to take every precaution to prevent its importation into this country, Dr. Russell received orders to attend the Privy Council. To the questions proposed to him he gave such pertinent and satisfactory answers, that he was desired to communicate in writing his information, and the method he proposed to prevent the spreading of that disease. Some time before this he had graduated doctor of medicine at Glasgow; he was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians 30th September, 1760, and in that year was elected physician to St. Thomas’s hospital. He continued in this office to the time of his death, " an example of diligence and humanity to the sick, of great medical abilities as a physician, and, as a gentleman, irreproachable." His death, which occurred at his house in Walbrook, on the 28th November, 1768, was caused by a putrid fever, which, notwithstanding the utmost endeavours of Dr. Pitcairn and his attached friend Dr. Fothergill, carried him off on the ninth day. " In respect of stature, Dr. Russell was rather tall than middling, well made, of a fresh, sauguine complexion, grave in his deportment, cheerful in conversation, active in the business of his profession, and sagacious; an attentive and diligent observer, clear in his intentions, manly in his prescriptions, and in his conduct to the sick benevolent and discreet."* His portrait by Dance was engraved by Trotter.

* An Essay on the Character of Alexander Russell, M.D., by J. Fothergill, M.D.

(Volume II, page 230)

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