in Bathgate, the youngest of seven sons to the local baker,
James Young Simpson showed academic promise from an early
This prompted his father to send him to Edinburgh university
where he studied medicine. Despite the distress he felt at
patients suffering (which almost caused him to give up in
favour of a career in law), he graduated in 1832, and his
subsequent progress, meant that at just 28 years old, he
was appointed tot he chair of midwifery in Edinburgh.
The main preoccupation during his life's work was the relief
of pain and suffering, particularly in the areas of childbirth
He was excited by new trials with ether in America, but abandoned
the drug in favour of chloroform which was seen to be more
efficient and less hazardous.
After experimenting on himself and two colleagues, he was
satisfied of its safety and started using it at his practice
two weeks later.
Resistance to this sleep-inducing chemical, was strong; the
religious authorities thought it dangerous to religion, morals
The use of anasethesia gained acceptance only gradually,
finally gaining full respectability when Queen Victoria took
it during the birth of Prince Leopold in 1853.
He was showered with honours from all over Europe and America,
and was made a baronet in 1866 - the first practising Scottish
doctor to achieve such recognition.
As well as leading the field of anaesthesia, Simpson made
other important advances, particularly in the fields of investigation,
diagnosis and treatment in obstetrics and gynaecology.
Simpson's Maternity Hospital in Edinburgh is named after