Cruikshank, William

, an eminent surgeon and anatomist, was born in 1745 at Edinburgh, where his father was examiner in the Excise-office, and had him christened William Cumberland in compliment to the hero of Culloden, but the latter name our anatomist seldom used. The earlier part of his life was spent in Scotland, and at the age of fourteen he went to the university of Edinburgh, with a view of studying divinity. Feeling, however, a strong propensity for anatomy and physic, he studied those sciences, with great assiduity, for eight years at the university of Glasgow. In 1771 he came to London, and by the recommendation of Dr. D. Pitcairn he became librarian to the late Dr. Hunter, who had applied to the professors of Glasgow for a young man of talents to succeed Mr. Hewson; and this connection was the principal means of raising Mr. Cruikshank to that conspicuous situation which he afterwards so well merited. During the life of Dr. Hunter, Mr. Cruikshank became successively his pupil, anatomical assistant, and partner in anatomy; and on the death of that celebrated man, Mr. Cruikshank and Dr. Baillie received an address from a large proportion of Dr. Hunter’s students, full of affection and esteem; which induced them to continue in Windmill-street the superintendance of that anatomical school which has produced so many excellent scholars. Mr. Cruikshank, besides supporting with great reputation his share in this undertaking, made himself known to the world by some excellent publications, which have insured to him a high character as a perfect anatomist, and a very acute and ingenious physiologist. In 1780 he published his principal work, the “Anatomy of the Absorbent Vessels in the Human Body,” in which he not only demonstrated, in the clearest manner, the structure and situation of these vessels, but collected, under one point of view, and enriched with many valuable observations, all that was known concerning this important system in the human body. Besides this work, the merit of which | has been fully acknowledged by translations into foreign languages, he wrote a paper, which was presented to the royal society several years ago, entitled, “Experiments on the Nerves of Living Animals,” in which is shewn the important fact of the regeneration of nerves, after portions of them have been cut out; illustrated by actual experiments on animals. This paper was read before the society, but not then printed, owing, as was said, to the interference of the late sir John Pringle, who conceived that it controverted some of the opinions of Haller, his intimate friend. It appeared, however, in the Society’s Transactions for 1794. In 1779 he made several experiments on the subject of “Insensible Perspiration,” which were added to the first editions of his work on the “Absorbent Vessels;” and were collected and published in a separate pamphlet in 1795. In 1797, the year in which he was elected F. R. S. he published an account of appearances in the ovaria of rabbits, in different stages of pregnancy; but his fame rests upon, and is best supported by, his “Anatomy of the Absorbents,” which continues to be considered as the most correct and valuable work on the subject now extant.

Mr. Cruikshank was not without some share of personal as well as intellectual vanity; but he had a generous and sympathetic heart, and literally “went about doing good.” He was one of those liberal medical gentlemen who attended Dr. Johnson in his last illness. Mr. Cruikshank’s death was occasioned by a disorder, the fatal consequences of which had been predicted by one of his pupils about sixteen years before that event. He used at certain times to complain of an acute pain in the apex of his head, and his pupil gave it as his opinion that the pain arose from extravasated blood, which was settled upon the sensorium; and that as no relief could be given without the greatest care in point of regimen, it would increase until it was too heavy for the tender nerves or organs of the medulla oblongata to bear; of course, it would occasion a rupture, and end in dissolution. When Mr. Cruikshank found himself in most excruciating pain, he sent for this gentleman, and every assistance was given; but the seat of the complaint, being directly under the pia mater, could not be touched. In this situation he breathed his last, July 27, 1800. The pericranium being afterwards opened, a | quantity of extravasated blood was found upon the sensorium t some of the tender vessels of which were ruptured. 1


Gent. Mag. 1800.—Rees’s Cyclopædia.