Dick, Sir Alexander

, bart. of Prestonfield, an eminent physician, the third son of sir William Cunningham, of Caprington, by dame Janet Dick, the only child and heiress of sir James Dick, of Prestonfield, near Edinburgh, was born Oct. 23, 1703. While his two elder brothers succeeded to ample fortunes, the one as heir to his father, and the other to his mother, the provision made for a younger son was not sufficient to enable him to live in a manner agreeable to his wishes without the aid of his own exertions. After, therefore, receiving a classical education at Edinburgh, he studied medicine at Leyden under | the celebrated Boerhaave, and obtained the degree of M. D. from that univer c; Aug. 31, 1725. On this occasion he published an i“, > -,gural dissertation,” De Epilepsia," which did him much credit. Not long after this he returned to Scotland, and had the honour of receiving a second diploma for the degree of M. D. conferred upon him by the university of St. Andrew’s, Jan. 23, 1727, and Nov. 7 of the same year, was admitted a fellow of the royal college of physicians of Edinburgh. But after Dr. Cunningham (for at that time he bore the name of his father) had received these distinguishing marks of attention at home, he was still anxious to obtain farther knowledge of his profession by the prosecution of hi-, studies abroad. With this intention he made the tour of Europe; and although medicine was uniformly his first and principal object, yet other arts and sciences were not neglected.

On his return to Britain, Mr. Hooke, a gentleman with whom he had formed an intimate friendship, and who possessed a large fortune in Pembrokeshire, persuaded him to settle as a physician in that country, where for several years he practised with great reputation and success. But his immediate elder brother, sir William Dick, dying without issue, he succeeded to the family estate and title, assuming from that time the name and arms of Dick; and very soon after fixed his residence at the family-seat of Preston-field. Although he now resolved to relinquish medicine as a lucrative profession, yet, from inclination, he still continued to cultivate it as an useful science. With this view he supported a friendly and intimate correspondence with the physicians of Edinburgh, and paid particular attention to the business of the royal college, among the list of whose members his name had been enrolled at a very early period of his life. In 1756 he was unanimously chosen president of the college, and was afterwards elected to that office for seven years successively. He not only contributed liberally towards the building of a hall for their accommodation, but strenuously exerted himself in promoting every undertaking in which he thought the honour or interest of the college was concerned. He was also long distinguished as a zealous and active member of the philosophical society of Edinburgh, and when the present royal society of Edinburgh received its charter, the name of sir Alexander Dick stood enrolled as one of the first in the list. For many years he discharged the duties of a | faithful tfnd vigilant manager of die royal iniirinnrj* of Kdinburgh; and took on all occasions an active share in promoting every public and useful undertaking. When the seeds of the true rhubarb were first introduced into Britain by the late Dr. Mounsey of Petersburg!), he not only bestowed great attention on the culture of the plant, but also on the drying of the root, and preparing it for the market. His success in these particulars was so great, that the society in London for the encouragement of arts and commerce, presented him, in 1774, with a gold medal, which is inscribed “To sir Alexander Dick, bart. for the best specimen of British rhubarb.” While steady in the pursuit of every object which engaged his attention, his conduct in every transaction through life was marked with the strictest honour and integrity. This, disposition, and this conduct, not only led him to be constant and warm in his friendship to those with whom he lived in habits of intimacy, but also procured him the love and esteem of all who really knew him. Notwithstanding the keenness and activity of his temper, yet its striking features were mildness and sweetness. He was naturally disposed to put the most favourable construction on the conduct and actions of others, which was both productive of much happiness to himself, and of general benevolence to mankind. And that serenity and cheerfulness which accompanied his conduct through life, were the attendants even of his last moments for on Nov. 10, 1785, he died with a smile upon his countenance, lamented as a great loss to society. 1


Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. II.—Boswell’s Life of Johnson, and Journey.