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Francis Adams (1796-1861)


UNDER the title of “A Great Country Doctor”, the June issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine contains a lively article by Prof. Charles Singer on Francis Adams of Banchory, the son of a village labourer who rose to be one of the greatest medical scholars of his age. His principal achievements were a translation of “The Genuine Works of Hippocrates”(1849), which Prof. Singer describes as “probably the most widely read of any work on medical history in the language” “The Seven Books of Paulus Aegineta”(1844-47), which “retains to this day its position as far and away the finest venture in pure historical medical research in the English language” and “The Extant Works of Aretseus the Cappadocian”(1853), which unlike the other two works contains the Greek text as well as the translation. His minor publications include articles to medical journals, translations of Horace and Musaeus into English verse, of Gray's “Elegy”into Latin, and of Wolfe's poem on Sir John Moore into Greek. He also collaborated with his son, Dr. Leith Adams, F. R. S., in a paper read before the British Association at Aberdeen in 1859 entitled “On Ornithology as a Branch of a Liberal Education”, and contributed to Dunbar and Barker's “Greek and English Lexicon”(1831), Lempriere's “Classical Dictionary”(1838), and Green-hill's “Theophilus”(1842). Adams was not only a great scholar but was also an excellent doctor. “His first love and his last”, says Prof. Singer, was his practice, his patients and the poor.“His devotion to his profession was best shown by his declining the chair of Greek at the University of Aberdeen, which afterwards gave him an honorary doctorate. He paid several visits to Oxford and London, where he made friends with many learned men, particularly James Quain and William Sharpey, the founders of the modern academic teaching of anatomy and physiology in England. Dr. Singer ends his fine essay by saying that though the ranks of general practitioners in Britain have produced many eminent men of science, such as J. A. Lockhart, Sir James Mackenzie and J. A. MacMunn, none of equal distinction as a scholarpractised in so isolated a locality as Adams.

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Francis Adams (1796-1861). Nature 150, 286–287 (1942).

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