JAMES YOUNG SIMPSON
in Bathgate, the youngest of seven sons to the local baker, James Young
Simpson showed academic promise from an early age.
This prompted his father to send him to Edinburgh university where he
studied medicine. Despite the distress he felt at patients suffering (which
almost caused him to give up in favour of a career in law), he graduated
in 1832, and his subsequent progress, meant that at just 28 years old,
he was appointed tot he chair of midwifery in Edinburgh.
The main preoccupation during his life's work was the relief of pain and
suffering, particularly in the areas of childbirth and surgery.
He was excited by new trials with ether in America, but abandoned the
drug in favour of chloroform which was seen to be more efficient and less
After experimenting on himself and two colleagues, he was satisfied of
its safety and started using it at his practice two weeks later.
Resistance to this sleep-inducing chemical, was strong; the religious
authorities thought it dangerous to religion, morals and health.
The use of anasethesia gained acceptance only gradually, finally gaining
full respectability when Queen Victoria took it during the birth of Prince
Leopold in 1853.
He was showered with honours from all over Europe and America, and was
made a baronet in 1866 - the first practising Scottish doctor to achieve
As well as leading the field of anaesthesia, Simpson made other important
advances, particularly in the fields of investigation, diagnosis and treatment
in obstetrics and gynaecology.
Simpson's Maternity Hospital in Edinburgh is named after him.