American Medical Biographies/Irvine, William

Irvine, William (1741–1804)

William Irvine was born in Enniskillen, Ireland, Nov. 3, 1741. He graduated in both the collegiate course and the medical school of Dublin University and soon after received a commission as surgeon in the Royal Navy. A vivid picture of the life of a ship surgeon at that time is given by Smollett, who served as ship surgeon's mate, in "Roderick Random;" candidates for medical positions in the navy were given an examination which was a "mere farce."

Irvine soon resigned and emigrated to America in 1763, settling at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he practised medicine in 1774. He was a delegate to the Provincial Congress of Pennsylvania in 1774; in 1776 he was made colonel of the Sixth Pennsylvania Battalion, and led his command on the expedition to invade Canada. As the battalion had been enlisted and equipped through his efforts, "he was greatly chagrined when they participated in the defeat of the Americans at Three Rivers, he himself being captured July 16, 1776." He was treated with great courtesy by General Burgoyne and General Carleton during his captivity. In May, 1778, he was exchanged and the same year was on the court-martial that tried General Charles Lee.

In May, 1779, he was made brigadier-general and commanded the Second Pennsylvania Brigade, seeing much active service. In 1782 he commanded the forces at Fort Pitt; active in studying the land problem in that part of the country, he was appointed by the state to "distribute the bounty lands to the troops who had served during the war." Through his efforts Pennsylvania purchased the district on the shores of Lake Erie known as "The Triangle," thus giving a lake front to the state.

In 1786 he was elected to Congress, and again in 1793, serving until 1795; in 1794 he "commanded the Pennsylvania troops who put down the 'Whiskey Insurrection'."

Irvine became superintendent of the military stares, situated at Philadelphia. He died in that city July 29, 1804.

Univ. of Penn. Med. Bull., 1901, vol xiv, 304–305, F. R. Packard.
Dict'n'y Amer. Biog., F. S. Drake, Boston, 1872.