Alston, Charles

, an ingenious physician and botanist, was the son of Mr. Alston, of Eddlewood, a gentleman of small estate in the west of Scotland, and allied to the noble family of Hamilton, who, after having studied physic, and travelled with several gentlemen, declined the practice of his profession, and retired to his patrimony. His son Charles was born in 1683, and at the time of his father’s death was studying at the university of | Glasgow. On this event, the duchess of Hamilton took him under her patronage, and recommended to him the profession of the law, but his inclination for botany and the study of medicine superseded all other schemes; and from the year 1716, he entirely devoted himself to medicine. In that year he went over to Leyden, and studied under Boerhaave for three years; and having here formed an acquaintance with the celebrated Dr. Alexander Monro, the first of that name, on their return they projected the revival of medical lectures and studies at Edinburgh. For this purpose they associated themselves with Drs. Rutherford, Sinclair, and Plummer, and laid the foundation of that high character, as a medical school, which Edinburgh has so long enjoyed. Dr. Alston’s department was botany and the materia medica, which he continued to teach with unwearied assiduity until his death, Nov. 22, 1760, in the seventy-seventh year of his age.

In 1740, he published for the use of his pupils 1. “Index Plantarum praecipue officinalium, qua; in horto medico Edinburgensi, studiosis demonstrantur,” 8vo. 2. “Index Medicamentorum simplicium triplex,1752, 8vo. 3. “Tirocinium Botanicum Edinburgense,1753; his principal work, containing a republication of his “Index” with the “Fundamenta Botanica” of Linnæus; in this, however, he made an unavailing attempt to overthrow Linnasus’s system; doubtless from a fond attachment to his early instructors, Tournefort, Ray, and Boerhaave. Besides these, he published in the Edinburgh medical essays, three papers on Tin as an anthelmintic, on Opium, and on a case of extravasated blood in the pericardium; and separately in 1752, 1754, and 1757, a “Dissertation on Quick-lime and Lime-water.” His “Lectures on the Materia Medica” were published after his death by Dr. Hope, 2 vols. 4to, 1770, which did not contribute much to his fame, being, as Dr. Pulteney justly observes, rather an account of the state of the materia medica, as it was, than as it is, in the works of Lewis, Bergius, Murray, and Cullen. 1

1 Pulteney ’ Hist and Biog Sketches of the Progress of Botany in England.