American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

Surgical Set collection from 1860 to 1865 - Civilian and Military

Civil War:  Medicine, Surgeon Education & Medical Textbooks

 Dr. Michael Echols  &  Dr. Doug Arbittier


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William Mackenzie, M. D.


Click to see the book in this collection by Dr. Mackenzie

Born in Glasgow’s Queen Street in April 1791, the son of a muslin manufacturer, Mackenzie initially studied divinity but found he was unable to reconcile the scientific facts of geology with a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis, and so turned to the study of medicine.

He trained at the University of Glasgow and the city’s Royal Infirmary. In 1815, after obtaining the diploma of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, he moved to Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. The years 1816-18 were spent on the Continent, where he developed his interest in ophthalmology.

He joined the Royal College of Surgeons and returned to Glasgow in 1819, entering general practice. In 1824, with Dr George Monteath, he established an eye infirmary, initially very small. He continued to lecture, and his book entitled “Practical Treatise of the Diseases of the Eye”, published in 1830, became a standard work.

DR. WILLIAM MACKENZIE, Surgeon Oculist in Ordinary to the Queen, was the son of James Mackenzie, muslin manufacturer, and was born in Queen Street, Glasgow, in April, 1791, and died in July 1868. He received his education at the Grammar School and the University. After passing through the Arts course he entered the Divinity Hall, but being unable to reconcile the facts of geology with the literal interpretation of Genesis, had to give up the study of theology before he had completed the prescribed course, and devoted himself to study of medicine.

His medical studies were prosecuted in his own University, and in the Royal Infirmary, where he became resident clerk to Dr. Richard Millar. In 1815, after obtaining the diploma of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, he proceeded to London, and attended Bartholomew’s Hospital, under Abernethy. In 1816 he went to the Continent, where he remained two years.

While a student, Dr. Mackenzie seems to have had his attention specially attracted to the anatomy and physiology of the eye; and his interest in the practical departments of ophthalmology was stimulated by the letters and advice of his friend, the late Professor Rainy, who had gone to London and Paris before him, and who was particularly struck by the superiority of the French mode of treatment of Egyptian ophthalmia, then devastating our armies, and especially by the successful operations on the eye performed by Roux, the most brilliant operating surgeon of the day. In Paris Dr. Mackenzie attended the various courses on natural history delivered at the Jardin des Plantes by Lamarck and other celebrities, and also the clinic of the Hotel Dieu, under Dupuytren and Roux.

Apparently not so deeply impressed as his friend with the superiority of French surgery, he started for Italy, and visited the various hospitals and places of interest on the way. Having letters of introduction to Scarpa, he went to Pavia, and spent a short time with that celebrated anatomist. Scarpa, who had visited London about 1780, and formed a close intimacy with Pott, Hunter, and others, told Mackenzie that there was no necessity for his leaving England to learn surgery. Mackenzie has left on record that of all the great men it had been his fortune to meet with, Scarpa was the one who had impressed him the most. After going as far as Rome, he returned to Paris. Taking advantage of the greater facilities afforded there for the study of anatomy, he devoted the winter of 1816-17 to that subject, with the view of ultimately becoming a lecturer on anatomy. In 1817 he went to Vienna, then the most celebrated school of ophthalmology, and became a pupil of the celebrated Beer, in whose practical class he performed his first operations on the eye. After having visited all the important schools of France, Italy, and Germany, to learn the best method of treating eye diseases, the teaching and practice of Beer seems to have made the most profound and lasting impression on him.

On his return to this country, in 1818, he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and began practice in London as an oculist and lecturer on the eye. After having devoted eight years to the study of his profession under the most celebrated teachers of the day, his success as a practitioner and lecturer does not seem to have been encouraging; and having been disappointed in regard to a popular lectureship on anatomy for which he applied at the age of twenty-seven, he left the Metropolis and settled in Glasgow in 1819, when he was elected a Fellow of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons and entered upon general practice, which he never entirely relinquished.

In 1824, in concert with Dr. George Monteath, then the chief oculist in Glasgow, he opened a subscription for the purposes of establishing an eye infirmary. The success of the hospital, which was commenced on a very small scale, was due in a great measure, not only to the professional ability of Dr. Mackenzie, but to the strict economy which he inculcated, and to the careful supervision which he exercised over its affairs in the first years of its existence.

In 1828, after having delivered lectures on different branches of medicine, including that of the eye, he was appointed Waltonian lecturer and lecturer on diseases of the eye in the University. As a lecturer Dr. Mackenzie was remarkable for the lucidity of his style and the elegance of his diction. The labour of preparing so many courses must have been very great, for he went with almost finical minuteness into every subject to which he directed his attention; but his methodical habits and great powers of application and excellent natural talents carried him through triumphantly. He used jocularly to remark that it was necessary to teach a subject in order to learn it; and there can be no doubt that the accurate study of his profession which his duty as a lecturer on so many different subjects imposed on him, and the experience acquired in his general practice, contributed in no small degree to the value of the great work on which his reputation was to be founded. The first edition of the “Practical Treatise of the Diseases of the Eye” was published in 1830. It at once attracted the attention of the profession, and took its place as the standard work of the period, and made his name famous throughout Europe. At forty years of age, with a European reputation, as one of the most learned and expert oculists, Dr. Mackenzie does not seem to have relinquished the hope of becoming a professor in one of the regular branches of medicine, for in 1833, when the chair of materia medica became vacant, he was an unsuccessful candidate, although bringing in support of his candidature the highest testimonials from the most eminent professors at home and abroad. Besides other medical works Dr. Mackenzie edited, for two years, the first series of the “Glasgow Medical Journal,” and almost to the last contributed articles and reviews on ophthalmic subjects to the journals; some of these manifest great ability and perhaps more original thought and research than his larger works. But Dr. Mackenzie’s reputation, and the place he will ultimately occupy in the history of ophthalmology, will not be so much in the field of original research as in arranging and supplementing what was already known.

(The personal edited research notes of Michael Echols, the source of which may or may not be completely documented)

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Civil War Medical Collections 


Direct links to all medical & Civil War collections on this site                         

American Surgical Sets:

Pre-Civil War:  1 | 2  -   Post-Civil War:  3  -  Civil War 1861-1865:  4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   INDEX

Medical Text-Books:

1 | 1a | 2 | 2a | 3 | 3a | 4 | 4a | 5 | 5a | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 9a | 10 | 11 | 12    INDEX

Surgeon General's Office Library printed catalogues: 1840 | 1864 | 1865
Medical Lecture Cards: 1 | 2 | 34 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21    INDEX

Medical Faculty and Authors:


Navy Surgeon Exams:

1863 Navy Surgeon Applicant Exams with Biographies   INDEX ONE | INDEX TWO

Surgeon CDVs, Images:

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American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016