Sir John Struthers

1823 - 1899

Anatomist and advocate for improved medical education. Born in Brucefield in Dumfermline, the son of a mill-owner and linen merchant, Struthers was initially educated at home before reading medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He graduated in 1845 and was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Struthers was appointed as a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in 1854, while practising anatomy in the University. In 1863, Struthers became the first Regius Professor of Anatomy at the University of Aberdeen and is credited with reforming medical teaching in Aberdeen and beyond. He created a museum of anatomy which still exists in the university today. He taught anatomy using the comparative perspective and arranged his museum specimens to demonstrate evolution, being an enthusiastic supported of Darwin. Struthers gained celebrity for his dissection of whales, particularly a humpback whale observed in the Firth of Tay in 1883. However, he wrote a vast number of scientific papers on aspects of anatomy and introduced the Struthers Medal and Prize, which are still awarded at the University of Aberdeen.

As Chairman of the Education Committee of the General Medical Council, he brought about significant changes in the medical education across the UK, extending and deepening the curriculum particularly in terms of practical training. Struthers was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Glasgow in 1885 and retired to Edinburgh in 1889, living at 15 George Square. He served as President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (1895-97) and was knighted in 1898. He died at home and was buried in Warriston Cemetery.

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