Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Drummond, James Lawson

DRUMMOND, JAMES LAWSON, M.D. (1783–1853), professor of anatomy, younger brother of William Hamilton Drummond, D.D. [q. v.], was born at Larne, co. Antrim, in 1783. His school years were passed at the Belfast Academy, and he received a surgical training at the Belfast Academical Institution. After acting as navy surgeon in the Mediterranean for some years (1807–13), he retired from the service (21 May 1813), and went to Edinburgh for further study. On 24 June 1814 he graduated M.D. at Edinburgh, exhibiting a thesis on the comparative anatomy of the eye. He at once began practice in Belfast. In 1817 he volunteered a course of lectures on osteology at the Academical Institution, and succeeded in obtaining the establishment of a chair of anatomy, of which he was elected (15 Dec. 1818) to be the first occupant. This post he held until 1849, when the collegiate department of the institution was merged in the Queen's College (opened in November 1849). His retirement was partly due to the circumstance that in the previous year he had broken his leg, and the accident had told upon his general health. He was one of the leading projectors of the botanic gardens at Belfast (1820); and in conjunction with seven other gentlemen (locally known as his apostles) he founded the Belfast Natural History Society (5 June 1821). This society began in 1823 to make collections of objects of scientific interest, and at length laid the foundation-stone (4 May 1830) of a museum, which was opened on 1 Nov. 1831. In 1840 the society enlarged its title to ‘Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society.’ Benn speaks of Drummond as ‘an able promoter of all scientific and literary matters in Belfast.’ He died at his residence, 8 College Square North, adjoining the museum, on 17 May 1853, and was buried at Ahoghill, co. Antrim, on 19 May. He was thrice married—first to a lady named Getty; secondly to Catharine Mitchell; thirdly, to Eliza O'Rorke—but had no issue. His widow still (1888) lives.

Besides papers in the ‘Transactions’ of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and articles in the ‘Magazine of Natural History’ and the ‘Belfast Magazine’ (a periodical which began in 1825), he was the author of: 1. ‘Thoughts on the Study of Natural History,’ Belf. 1820 12mo (anon., consists of an address in seven chapters to the proprietors of the Academical Institution, recommending the foundation of a museum). 2. ‘First Steps to Botany,’ 1823, 12mo. 3. ‘Letters to a Young Naturalist,’ 1831, 12mo (the most popular of his works, and in its time very serviceable in the promotion of scientific tastes). 4. ‘First Steps to Anatomy,’ 1845, 12mo. He was an able draughtsman, and illustrated his own works. At the time of his death he had nearly ready for the press a work on conchology, and another on the wild flowers of Ireland.

[Belfast Daily Mercury, News Letter, and Northern Whig, all of 20 May 1853; Benn's Hist. of Belfast, 1880, ii. 232; Proceedings of Belf. Nat. Hist. and Philos. Soc., 1882, p. 13 sq.; private information.]

A. G.