Tag Archives: Edinburgh Royal Infirmary

Lawson Tait, father of aseptic surgery and gynecology

Robert Lawson Tait. via Wikimedia. Robert Lawson Tait was fifth in a dynasty of pioneers who helped transform surgery from a primitive craft to a sophisticated life-saving art. They all worked for a time at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary—James Syme (the “Napoleon of Surgery”), Robert Liston (“time me, gentlemen”), James Simpson (“made childbirth painless”), and […]

The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the legacy of Long John Silver

George Venters Scotland   The “Old Surgical Hospital” as it is today. Courtesy of Dr. Iain MacIntyre. Faced with the danger of having his right foot amputated in 1873, the real “Long John Silver,” the English poet William E. Henley, turned for help to Joseph Lister and became a patient in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. […]

James Syme, the Napoleon of surgery (1799–1870)

James Syme, by John Adamson. Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1855. James Syme was born in Edinburgh in the year when Napoleon became First Consul, and in later years came to be called the Napoleon or Wellington of surgery.1-6 As a young man he had an interest in chemistry and at age eighteen developed a method […]

Robert Liston – the fastest knife in town

Samuel Johnson, a man of strongly held prejudices, had a low opinion of most foreigners, and this included the Scots. James Boswell, his biographer and a Scotsman himself, records how Johnson patronizingly would declare that the best roads lead from Scotland and that much could be made of a Scotsman “if he be caught young.” […]