John Goodsir bigraphy, stories - Scottish anatomist

John Goodsir : biography

20 March 1814 - 6 March 1867

John Goodsir (20 March 1814 – 6 March 1867) was a Scottish anatomist, born at Anstruther, Fife. He was a pioneer in the study of the cell.


Goodsir was trained in St Andrews and Edinburgh. In Edinburgh, he served an apprenticeship in dentistry; he then moved back to Anstruther where he wrote his noted essay on "Teeth"; in 1840 he was appointed Conservator of the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in succession to the great William McGillivray, and lecturer on Diseases of Bone in 1842. It was about this time (1841–1842) that Goodsir developed his revolutionary lectures on the importance of cellular life and organisation; this innovative approach later won the extravagant praise of Rudolf Virchow (1821–1902), who dedicated his masterpiece Cellular Pathology to Goodsir. Four years later, Goodsir succeeded Dr. Alexander Monro (tertius) (1773–1859) in the chair of Anatomy in Edinburgh University. In subsequent years, Goodsir supervised many brilliant medical men, including Thomas Clouston, James Bell Pettigrew and William Turner. At this time, anatomy had fallen into low regard, thanks to the "Burke and Hare" scandal (1828) in which the great scientific anatomist Robert Knox (1791–1862) had been pilloried by the Edinburgh medical establishment; and to the scientific incompetence of the lamentable Alexander Monro (tertius). Goodsir's outstanding anatomical teaching and his extensive research activities (published together as his Anatomical Memoirs, edited by Sir William Turner in 1868) did much to restore prestige to Edinburgh's anatomical traditions. The Anatomical Memoirs also contain a biography by Henry Lonsdale.


An obituary appeared in the British Journal of Dental Science.

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