Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton

Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton was born on March 14, 1844 in Bowden, Roxburghshire (in Scotland, near the English border) to James Brunton and his wife Agnes. There are conflicting accounts of his early education, some saying he studied privately and others that he studied at the parish school and then a school at Melrose. He went to Edinburgh University where at his father's urging he began to study law. Taking classes in chemistry and physics in his spare time he soon became so interested in them that he changed his focus. He qualified in 1866, taking the M.B, C.M.Edin. degree with honors and M.D. in 1868 with honors for his thesis on "Digitalis, with some observations on the urine". For a year (1866-67) he served as house physician at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.
After his education he went abroad, intending to visit places mentioned in the story of Joseph from the Bible, visiting Egypt and Syria. He continued his travels visiting Turkey, Greece and Italy. he went to Vienna, where he did laboratory work on digitalis (he never published his results), Berlin, where he analyzed the nuclei of blood cells, Amsterdam and Leipzig where he was one of the first students to be admitted to Carl Ludwig's new institution. It was there that he worked studying arterioles and capillaries making experiments on the effects of amyl nitrate and sodium nitrate. It is the use of amyl nitrate for the relief of angina pectoris that he is chiefly remembered for (drawing on the work of Arthur Gamgee and Benjamin Ward Richardson). Inhaled amyl nitrate causes vasodilation in the coronary arteries and reduced systemic resistance to blood flow.
In 1870 Brunton was appointed lecturer on pharmacology and materia medica at Middlesex Hospital. The following year he was made casualty physician at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, were he would remain for thirty three years, four years as a casualty physician, twenty as an assistant physician and nine as a physician, retiring before he reached the age of sixty-five so that younger men might have the chance to be promoted. He spent much of his time at St. Bartholomew's conducting research and producing papers on his studies of pharmacology. His most important work, the Textbook of Pharmacology, Therapeutics, and Materia Medica appeared in 1885. He had prepared a work on materia medica fifteen years previously, but had the printer suspend publication so that he could remove some redundancies and clear up some areas were further research was needed. The work was so riddled with these problems that he eventually decided to start over. His Textbook was well received, going through three editions in two years.
In addition to his scientific work Brunton was also a biblical scholar. His work, The Bible and Science was written to show, in a brief and popular way, that the Darwinian theory is not an atheistic theory, but is in correspondence with the biblical account of creation.
Brunton was made a fellow to the Royal Society in 1874. He was knighted in 1900 and made a baronet in 1908.
Brunton died on September 16th, 1908.
Thompson, W. B.; "Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton, LL.D., M.D., F.R.C.P., F.R.S."; The Border Magazine (1902) Vol. VII, No. 74, p. 41-43
"Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton, BT., F.R.S." British Medical Journal (1916) V2(2908) p.440-442
Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton Wikipedia Entry

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