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GREGORY, James (1753-1821)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0113 MS-GREGJ
Held at: Royal College of Physicians
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Full title: GREGORY, James (1753-1821)
Date(s): 1785
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 volume
Name of creator(s): Gregory | James | 1753-1821 | physician


Administrative/Biographical history:

James Gregory was born in January 1753 in Aberdeen, the son of John Gregory, professor of medicine at Edinburgh University. He was educated at Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and studied for a short time at Christ Church, Oxford. During the winter of 1773-74 he studied at St George's Hospital, London. His father died suddenly in the winter of 1773 whilst he was still a medical student, and he completed his father's course of lectures at Edinburgh University. He did this with such success that his father's chair, the professorship of practice of medicine, was left open to Gregory. He graduated MD in 1774 and spent the following two years studying medicine abroad.

In 1776, at the age of 23, he was appointed professor at Edinburgh University. The following year he began giving clinical lectures at the Royal Infirmary. In 1780-82 he published his Conspectus Medicinae Theoreticae, which established his position in medicine. Although there was little original work in his Conspectus, it was valuable for what he wrote on therapeutics. In 1790 he succeeded to the chair of the practice of medicine at the university. From this point he was chief of the Edinburgh Medical School. Gregory attained a high reputation and had the leading consulting practice in Scotland, until his death. He was a friend of the poet Robert Burns.

He was widely popular as a teacher, particularly for his command of language, his excellent recollection of cases, his outspokenness, energy and humour. He was very practical in his approach, and advocated temperance, bodily exertion without fatigue, and mental occupation without anxiety, although he `by no means followed his own prescription' (DNB, 1890, p.100).

Gregory was a keen controversialist, and was keen-witted and sarcastic, but `wasted his great powers on temporary and irritating controversies' (ibid). His controversy with the physician James Hamilton led to him severely beating Hamilton with a stick, for which he was fined 100 and costs for defamation. He then attacked, in his `Memorial to the Managers' of 1800, the practice of allowing all surgeons in Edinburgh to officiate at the Royal Infirmary in turn.

Gregory spoke out vehemently in opposition to the Edinburgh College of Physicians' recommendation to relax its regulations against the dispensing of medicines by members. The College charged him with violating his oath not to divulge its proceedings and having made false statements. He was found guilty by the College in September 1803, and was suspended from the rights and privileges of the fellowship in May 1809.

Gregory died on 2 April 1823, and was buried in Canongate churchyard, Edinburgh. Five sons and two daughters, by his second wife a Miss McLeod, survived him.

De Morbis Coeli Mutatione Medendis (Edinburgh, 1774)
Conspectus Medicinae Theoreticae (Edinburgh, 1780-82)
Philosophical and Literary Essays (2 vols; Edinburgh, 1792)
Additional Memorial to the Managers of the Royal Infirmary (Edinburgh, 1803)
First Lines on the Practice of Physic, William Cullen, edited by James Gregory (Edinburgh, 1812)
Letter from Dr James Gregory in Defence of his Essay on the Difference of the Relation between Motive and Action and that of Cause and Effect in Physics, with replies by A. Crombie, Alexander Crombie and James Gregory (London, 1819)

Publications by others about Gregory:
Answer for the Junior Members of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh to the Memorial of Dr James Gregory, John Bell (Edinburgh, 1800)
Narrative of the Conduct of Dr James Gregory towards the RCPE, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 1809)
Letters on Professional Character and Manners: On the Education of a Surgeon, and the Duties and Qualifications of a Physician: Addressed to James Gregory, MD, John Bell (Edinburgh, 1812)


Scope and content/abstract:

James Gregory's clinical case note book, 1785, containing notes on male patients, followed by notes on female patients.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

All requests should be referred to the Archivist

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The provenance of the collection is unknown

Allied Materials

Related material:

There is also material relating to Gregory held elsewhere in the College archives, including notes on his clinical lectures, compiled by one of his students, 1785 (MS257); Notes on clinical cases and reports of Alexander Monro, William Cullen, Robert Whytt and James Gregory, 1763-72 (MS468-469); Tickets for admittance to Gregory's lectures on practical medicine belonging to John Gorman, 1813-14 (MS3301-3302); There are also a number of letters referring to Gregory amongst the Autographed Letters Collection (ALS).

Gregory's correspondence and papers, 1771-1816, are held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections; His correspondence and lecture notes, 1775-1832, are held at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh; His lectures and notes, 1781-1820, and notes on cases treated by him at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, 1801, are held at the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine; His lecture notes, 1787, are held at the University of British Columbia, Woodward Biomedical Library; His lecture notes, 1793-94, are held at the University of Toronto, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library; Other lecture notes, 1793-94, are held at Dundee University Archives; His lecture notes, c.1818, are held at the National Library for Scotland, Manuscripts Division. See the National Register of Archives for details.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. XXIII, Leslie Stephen & Sidney Lee (eds.) (London, 1890) [DNB, 1890, pp.99-101]; `Dr James Gregory - New Letter Found', British Medical Journal, 17 January 1953; Historical Manuscripts Commission On-Line National Register of Archives.
Compiled by Katharine Martin

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:
Compiled November 2003

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