Rutherford, John

, a learned physician, and one of the founders of the medical school of Edinburgh, was the son of the rev. Rutherford, minister of Yarrow, in the county of Selkirk, Scotland, and was born Aug. 1, 1695. He received his school-education at Selkirk, where there is every reason to believe he made a rapid progress in the knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages. In 1708, or 1710, he went to the university of Edinburgh, and after the regular course of classical studies, mathe^ matics, and natural philosophy, engaged himself as apprentice to Mr. Alexander Nesbit, at that time an eminent surgeon, with whom he remained until 1716, when he went to London. There he attended some of the hospitals, and the lectures read on anatomy by Dr. Douglas, on surgery by Andre, and on materia medica by Strother. He next proceeded to Leyden, which, from the lectures of Boerhaave, was then the most celebrated medical school in Europe. In 1719, he went to France, and about the end of July of that year was admitted to the degree of M. D. in the university of Rheims. He passed the following winter in Paris, chiefly for the sake of Window’s private demonstrations in anatomy, and in 1720 returned to Britain.

In 1721, he settled as a physician at Edinburgh, and soon afterwards Drs. Rutherford, Sinclair, Plummer, and Innes, purchased a laboratory, where they prepared compound medicines, an art then little known in Scotland; but, having higher views than the mere profits of such a | speculation, they demonstrated, as far as they were the* known, the operations of chemistry, to a numerous audience: and soon afterwards, by the advice of their old tnaster Boerhaave, they extended their lectures to other branches of physic. In 1725, they were appointed joint professors in the university: where, we believe, each, for some time, read lectures in every department of medical science, anatomy exempted, and carried forward their classes in rotation. The anatomical lectures were read by the elder Monro, who had been settled a 3*ear or two before them in Edinburgh. But on the death of Dr. Innes, a particular branch of medical science was allotted to each of the other three professors. Dr. Plummer was appointed professor of chemistry and materia medica, Dr. Sinclair of the institutes of physic, and Dr. Rutherford of the practice; and thus they had the honour to establish the medical school of Edinburgh. The lectures on the institutes and practice of physic were then, and for many years afterwards, delivered in Latin, of which Dr. Rutherford had a great command, and talked the language more fluently than that of his country. This practice, we believe, was afterwards discontinued by the successors of these founders; but Dr. Rutherford lectured in Latin as long as he filled the practical chair.

About 1748, he introduced a very great improvement in the course of medical education. Sensible that abstract lessons on the symptoms and the mode of treating various diseases, of which the student knew little but the names, could scarcely be of any benefit, he had for some time encouraged his pupils to bring patients to him on Saturday, when he inquired into the nature of their diseases, and prescribed for them in the presence of the class. This gave rise to a course of clinical lectures, the utility of which was so obvious, that it was enacted, by a decree of the senate of the university, that no man should be admitted to an examination for his doctor’s degree, who had not attended those lectures, to which an excellent hospital, then lately erected, gave the professors every opportunity of doing ample justice. He resigned his professorship in 1765, after having taught medicine in different departments for upwards of forty years, and was succeeded, by Dr. John Gregory. Dr. Rutherford lived, after this period, highly respected by many eminent physicians who had | been his pupils, till 1779, when he died at Edinburgh, in the eighty-fourth year of his age. 1


Dr. Greig’s Suppl. to the Encycl. Britannica.