Sue Young Histories

John Goodsir 1814 – 1867

June 15, 2010

John Goodsir 1814 – 1867 was a Scottish anatomist, and the brother of Harry Goodsir, who was a collector for Charles Darwin,

Homeopath John Rutherford Russell wrote of John Goodsir:

As regards Professor Goodsir, we acquit him of any personal animosity towards homeopathy, for some years ago he undertook to write pathological articles in the British Journal of Homeopathy, and only desisted for fear of offending his less liberal brethren‘,

Despite the prohibition of his allopathic brethren, John Goodsir continued to clandestinely consult professionally with homeopaths for the benefit of the patient,

Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow (who was extremely interested in homeopathy, and who praised Samuel Hahnemann for being the first person to emirically and systematically test the effects of medicaments on healthy people, and for his concept of the minimum dose. Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow credited Samuel Hahnemann’s theory of homeopathy with stimulating new and detailed investigations in chemisty), dedicated his masterpiece Cellular Pathology to John Goodsir

John Goodsir born at Anstruther, Fife, Scotland, and 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 organization; this innovative approach later won the extravagant praise of Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow, who dedicated his masterpiece Cellular Pathology to Goodsir.

Four years later, Goodsir succeeded Alexander Monro tertius in the chair of Anatomy in Edinburgh University.

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 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 William Turner in 1868) did much to restore prestige to Edinburgh’s anatomical traditions.