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The Burns Encyclopedia
Home | Introduction | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Gregory, Dr James (1753 — 1821)

Son of the Professor of Medicine at Aberdeen and Edinburgh and great grandson of the mathematician, James Gregory (1638 — 75). Gregory was educated at Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Oxford. In 1776 he became Professor of Physick in Edinburgh University, and in 1790 he succeeded Cullen as Professor of the Practice of Medicine. His Conspectus Medicinae Theoreticae (widely read in its day) was published in 1780. He disliked 'meddlesome medicine', believed in fresh air and exercise, and was an able lecturer. He was the inventor of 'Gregory's Powder', long prescribed as a laxative.

George William Hay Drummong, in A Town Elogue (1804), deals thus with Gregory's book:

"Some style this jumble of satyric strokes
'An Hospital for invalided jokes,'
And others in a higher rank to class 'em
'The classic surgeon's Gradus ad Parnassum.'"

The Dictionary of Natural Biography states that Gregory 'wasted his great powers on temporary and irritating controversies'. He was fined for defamation in a row with a Dr Hamilton, which ended with Hamilton being given a beating with a stick by Gregory. Another of his rows resulted in his expulsion from the Edinburgh College of Physicians, for breaking his oath not to divulge its proceedings, and for making false statements. But Lord Cockburn thought him 'a curious and excellent man, a great physician, a great Lecturer, a great Latin scholar and a great talker, vigorous and generous, large of stature and with a strikingly powerful countenance'.

He married twice. By his second wife, a Miss McLeod, he had eleven children. Their fourth son, William, was later to hold his father's old chair in Edinburgh.

on. He made ascents from Edinburgh and Glasgow the following year.A Shetland minister, the Rev John Mill, either saw, or read about, one of Lunardi's Scottish Ascents and recorded in his Diary:'A French man [sic] called Lunardi fled over the Firth of Forth in a Balloon, and lighted in Ceres parish, not far from Cupar, in Fife; and O! how much are the thoughtless multitude set on these and like foolish vanities to the neglect of the one thing needful. Afterwards, 'tis said, when soaring upwards in the foe God!'

Burns submitted his poem 'The Wounded Hare' to Dr Gregory for criticism, which he gave freely, complaining both of the stanza form and the 'coarseness' of the language. Burns seems to have been quite taken aback by his strictures.

In one of Burns's letters to Dugald Stewart from Ellisland, 20th January 1789, the poet mentioned 'the justness (iron justice, for he has no bowels of compassion for a poor poetic sinner) of Dr Gregory's remarks'.

In 'Willie's Aw', Burns listed 'worthy Gregory's Latin Face' as one of those to be seen habitually at Creech's levees.

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Complete Burns Songs

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