Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dunglisson, Robley

DUNGLISSON, ROBLEY, M.D. (1798–1869), medical writer, son of William Dunglisson, was born at Keswick, Cumberland, 4 Jan. 1798, and in accordance with a custom of the north-west of England, received in baptism his mother's maiden name. He was apprenticed to an apothecary at Keswick, attended lectures at Edinburgh and in London, and in 1819 became a surgeon-apothecary, to which diplomas in 1824 he added an Erlangen doctorate, as a preliminary to commencing practice as a man midwife. He published in 1824 ‘Commentaries on Diseases of the Stomach and Bowels of Children,’ a lengthy compilation which excited the admiration of an agent of the university of Virginia, then seeking professors in Europe, and led to Dunglisson's appointment as a professor. He reached America in 1825, and lectured for nine years in the university of Virginia. During this period he published a ‘Human Physiology’ in two volumes, and a medical dictionary. In 1833 he migrated to the university of Maryland, and lectured at Baltimore on materia medica, therapeutics, hygiene, and medical jurisprudence, and at the same time wrote treatises on general therapeutics and on hygiene. He was elected professor of the institutes of medicine in Jefferson Medical College, moved to Philadelphia in 1836, and there lectured till 1868. He wrote magazine articles on a great variety of subjects, translated and edited many medical books, and wrote a ‘Practice of Medicine,’ 1842, and a ‘History of Medicine’ (edited since his death by his son, 1872). A complete list of his medical writings is printed in the ‘Index Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office, U.S. Army’ (iii. 949–950). They show extensive superficial acquaintance with books, but no thorough reading in medicine, while his knowledge of disease from personal observation seems to have been small. He could write down in a morning enough to fill fifteen pages of print, but his reputation for learning in America was due to the want of learning in the universities in which he flourished. He was a most industrious professor, and excited the admiration of his pupils and of the American medical world, which bought 125,000 copies of his works. He was the most voluminous writer of his day in the new world, and his American biographer records with pride that in point of bulk the works of all his American contemporaries sink into insignificance beside his. He married in London in 1824 Harriette Leadam, and had seven children. He died of disease of the aortic valves, 1 April 1869, and at the post-mortem examination his brain was found to be five ounces heavier than the average English male brain.

[Gross's Memoir, Philadelphia, 1869; Works.]

N. M.