John Burns Scotland

Biography of John Burns

John Burns
John Burns

John Burns (1775-1850) was a graduate of the University and the first Regius Professor of Surgery, 1815 to 1850.

Burns was the eldest son of John Burns (1744-1839) who had been the minister of the Barony Church. John Jnr was licensed by the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and became an apothecary and surgeon's clerk, and then visiting surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary in the 1790s. In 1797, with his brother Allan, he set up a private medical school in College Street where he taught Anatomy, Surgery and Midwifery, and was caught up in controversy when his students were suspected of grave-robbing in order to provide cadavres for the dissecting table. He was appointed Professor of Anatomy and Theory at Anderson's University in 1799 and he published a number of text books for students, establishing an international reputation as an authority on abortion and midwifery.

The University Chancellor, the Duke of Montrose, nominated Burns for the Regius Chair, which the Professor held while continuing his private practice. He and Professor John Towers were the first to be awarded the degree of CM by the University (in 1817) and he was awarded an MD in 1828. With his son Allan, he taught the Midwifery class during the illness of Professor Towers in the early 1830s and he was a visiting physician at the Royal Infirmary from 1833 to 1836.

Burns was the brother of two senior figures in the MacBrayne's and Cunard shipping businesses. He was among fifty people who died when the steamship Orion sank off Portpatrick in June 1850, on its way from Liverpool to Glasgow.


John Burns

Born 1775, Glasgow, Scotland.
Died 18 June 1850.
GU Degrees: CM, 1817; MD, 1828;
University Link: Graduate, Professor
Occupation categories: surgeons
Search for this person in the DNB
Record last updated: 16th Jul 2009

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