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St Bartholomew's Hospital

MATTHEWS DUNCAN, James (1826-1890)


Reference code(s): GB 0405 X303

Held at: St Bartholomew's Hospital

Title: MATTHEWS DUNCAN, James (1826-1890)

Date(s): 1796-1952

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 3 boxes

Name of creator(s): Duncan | James | Matthews | 1826-1890 | physician


Administrative/Biographical history:

James Matthews Duncan, born in Aberdeen, 1826; educated, grammar school, 1834-1839; Marischal College, Aberdeen, 1839, studied medicine from 1841; dresser to Dr George Keith and conservator of the Museum of Anatomy, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary; studied medicine, Edinburgh University, 1845; M. D., Marischal College, 1846; studied in Paris, 1846-1847; junior assistant to Dr James Simpson, Edinburgh University, 1847; assisted Simpson, along with Keith, in his experiments with anaesthetics, successfully using chloroform, 1847; commenced private practice in Edinburgh, 1851; Fellow, Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, and lectured there on midwifery, 1853; Physician to ward for diseases of women, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, 1861; helped found Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh; Physician Accoucheur and Lecturer in midwifery, St Bartholomew's Hospital, 1877; President, London Obstetrical Society, 1881; Goulstonian Lecturer, Royal College of Physicians, 1883; died, 1890.
Publications include: Fecundity, Fertility and Sterility (1866); Researches in Obstetrics (1868); A Practical Treatise on Parametritis and Perimetritis (1869); On the Mortality of Childbed and Maternity Hospitals (1870); On Sterility in Women (1884).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of James Matthews Duncan, 1796-1952, comprising certificates and related papers, 1843-1887, including MD from Marischal College, Aberdeen, 1846, references from Edinburgh Maternity Hospital and Royal Maternity Hospital, 1846; letters relating to a variety of subjects including fallopian tubes, patient cases and lupus, 1873-1888; notes from lectures attended by Matthews Duncan, at Edinburgh University and Paris, 1845-1847; preparatory notes and transcripts of lectures by Matthews Duncan, 1853-[1861]; medical statistics and case notes from his period in Edinburgh and St Bartholomew's Hospital, 1840-1888; photographs and portraits of Duncan and his wife, 1850-1951; medical publications collected by Matthews Duncan, 1833-1890; papers relating to Duncan, 1890-[1952], including a biography by his sister Isabella, [1890-1901]; letters relating to an article on Matthews Duncan in St Bartholomew's Hospital Journal, 1950-1952;

uncatalogued papers, comprising Matthews Duncan's 'Juvenilia', comprising correspondence, invitations, essays and observations, [1840-1853]; testimonials and appreciations for election to the Chair of Midwifery at Edinburgh University, 1870, with related press cuttings (Matthews Duncan was unsucessful); letters and telegrams from Queen Victoria, Dr James Reid and other members of the royal circle, 1849-1894; letters and telegrams of condolence to Mrs Matthews Duncan on the death of her husband, 1890; letters from Matthews Duncan, baptism and marriage certificates relating to the family, 1796-1889; testimonials and certificates for attendance at lectures etc, 1841-1847; letters from various correspondents including James Paget and Lord Lister, [1868-1893]; miscellaneous papers, including offprints by Matthews Duncan and others, correspondence concerning the transfer of his collections to the custody of St Bartholomew's Hospital, [1832-1949].


Language/scripts of material: English, some Latin, German, French and Russian.

System of arrangement:

Where papers were clearly misfiled, file contents have been rearranged on listing. Loose papers have been arranged into thematic and chronological order.

Conditions governing access:

Researchers wishing to consult the archives should first contact the Archivist, St Bartholomew's Hospital, for an appointment.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying is not permitted. However, single sheets dated after 1850 may be photocopied at the discretion of the Archivist. Photographs of items are obtainable, subject to copyright regulations, from the Department of Medical Illustration at St Bartholomew's Hospital. Arrangements can be made via the Archivist. Outside photographers and researchers' own cameras are not permitted.

Physical characteristics:

Finding aids:

A list is available at St Bartholomew's Hospital Archives. Some of the material is uncatalogued.


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


Archival history:

The papers were in the possession of the Matthews Duncan family until presented to St Bartholomew's Medical College Library between 1935 and 1950. Most of the photographs and portraits were collected by C P Wendell-Smith, editor of St Bartholomew's Hospital Journal for an article.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Transferred from St Bartholomew's Medical College Library.


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

Photograph of Duncan (reference: X10/18), address to the Abernethian Society, 1886 (reference: SA14/4), and forceps and pill box and artefacts are held by St Bartholomew's Hospital Archives and Museum. Lecture notes of Duncan, 1890 (reference: MS 2241) are held by the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine; Lectures on diseases of women, 1871, and lectures on midwifery, 1871-1872, probably taken by John Playfair (reference: Duncan), held by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

Publication note:



Archivist's note: Sources: The Royal Hospital of Saint Bartholomew 1123-1973 edited by Victor Cornelius Medvei and John L Thornton (St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, 1974); History of St Bartholomew's Hospital Norman Moore 2 vols (London, 1918); 'Matthews Duncan's History of Midwifery' by C P Wendell-Smith, St Bartholomew's Hospital Journal, Oct 1950 pp220-225; 'James Matthews Duncan' by Sir William Turner, St Bartholomew's Hospital Reports, 1890, pp xxxiii-xlvi. Compiled by Julie Tancell as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: March 2002

Gynaecology | Medical sciences
Hospitals | Health services
Medical education | Higher science education
Medical records | Documents | Information sources
Midwifery | Nursing | Medical sciences
Obstetrics | Medical sciences
Photographs | Visual materials
Physicians | Medical personnel | Medical profession | Medical sciences
Surgery | Medical sciences
Medical institutions
Primary documents
Social sciences
Social welfare

Personal names
Duncan | Isabella | Matthews | fl 1890-1901 | sister of James Matthews Duncan
Duncan | James | Matthews | 1826-1890 | physician x Matthews Duncan | James
Lister | Joseph | 1827-1912 | 1st Baron Lister | surgeon x Lister | 1st Baron
Paget | Sir | James | 1814-1899 | 1st Baronet | surgeon
Reid | Sir | James | 1849-1923 | 1st Baronet | Royal physician
Victoria | 1819-1901 | Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and empress of India

Corporate names
Edinburgh Maternity Hospital
Royal Maternity Hospital | Edinburgh
St Bartholomew's Hospital | London
University of Edinburgh x Edinburgh University

Edinburgh | Midlothian | Scotland | UK | Western Europe | Europe
Paris | France | Western Europe | Europe
Smithfield | City of London | London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe