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Matthew Baillie

Baillie, Matthew

Matthew Baillie was born at Shotts, Lanarkshire, on 27 Oct. 1762. His father (James) was the minister of the parish, and was afterwards Professor of Divinity at Glasgow. His mother (Dorothea) was a sister of the great anatomists, William and John Hunter. Joanna, the poetess, was Matthew's sister. Baillie went to the grammar school of Hamilton, and thence to the University of Glasgow. He came to London at the age of eighteen, and lived at William Hunter's house. Baillie entered Balliol College, Oxford, and worked hard there at the studies of the place but his more valuable education was carried on in Windmill Street in the vacations. A lecture-theatre and museum adjoined Dr. William Hunter's house, and in them Baillie attended public lectures, which his uncle supplemented by instruction whenever he and his nephew were together. He taught Matthew how to observe, communicated to him his own love of science, and set him an example of lucid exposition. Following an apprenticeship with his Uncle William in London, Baillie was appointed physician to St. George's Hospital. At age 36, he left St. George's, ceased writing and lecturing, and spent the rest of his life in private medical practice.

Baillie's most significant work, The Morbid Anatomy of Some of the Most Important Parts of the Human Body, was published in 1793. It established morbid anatomy as an independent science. Baillie gave the first clinical descriptions of gastric ulcer and chronic obstructive pulmonary emphysema and presented one of the clearest descriptions ever written on the pulmonary lesions of tuberculosis.

Baillie served as physician extraordinary to King George III, but he accepted rich and poor alike as patients. He was the last and most famous owner of the gold-headed cane, the coveted symbol of excellence among London physicians.

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