Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fyfe, Andrew

FYFE, ANDREW, the elder (1754–1824), anatomist, was born in 1754, probably at Corstorphine, near Edinburgh, where his father lived. He was appointed 'dissector' to Monro secundus, professor of anatomy in Edinburgh University, in 1777 (Medical Commentaries, iv. 242), having two years previously been awarded 'the annual prize medal given by the commissioners for improvements in Scotland, for the best drawing in the academy which they have established at Edinburgh.' For about forty years he superintended the dissections and gave demonstrations in the anatomical school under the second and third Monros. Sir Astley Cooper, who attended his demonstrations in 1787-8, says (Life, i. 172) : 'I learned much from him. He was a horrid lecturer, but an industrious, worthy man, and good practical anatomist. His lecture was, "I say—eh, eh, eh, gentlemen; eh, eh, eh, gentlemen—I say, etc.;" whilst the tallow from a naked candle he held in his hand ran over the back of it and over his clothes: but his drawings and depictions were well made and very useful.' Mr. Bransby Cooper, who attended Fyfe in 1815-16, says: 'Mr. Fyfe was a tall thin man, and one of the most ungainly lecturers I ever knew. He had been assistant to Dr. Monro,' implying that he was now no longer assistant but lectured on his own account. It is doubtful when his assistancy ceased, but it is pretty certain that he lectured and taught anatomy somewhere in the Horse Wynd. He was entered as fellow of the Edinburgh College of Surgeons, 23 Oct. 1818, a few weeks before the entry of his son Andrew. He was a great writer of text-books, which are as dry as his lectures, but, being associated with and adapted to the university plan of teaching, they had a large sale. To the last his books were dated from the 'college,' that is the university. The seventh edition of his 'Compendium,' 1819, bears on the title-page after his name 'teacher of anatomy, and many years assistant in the anatomical theatre, university of Edinburgh;' while the fourth edition of his 'System,' 1820, states that he was 'still conservator to the museum of the university.' It appears that his lectures at last failed to be remunerative, and that in his latter years he devoted himself to his text-books and engravings. He died on 31 March 1824. He had nine children, of whom three died in infancy. Four sons entered the medical profession. Fyfe's works are: 1. 'A System of Anatomy from Monro, Winslow, Innes,' &c. 2 vols. 1784, 2nd edit. 1787 (edited by A.F.), with the addition of Physiology based on Haller and others, and the 'Comparative Anatomy' of Monroprimus. 2. ' A Compendium of the Anatomy of the Human Body,' 2 vols. 1800; 8th edit. 4 vols. 1823, entitled 'A Compendium of Anatomy, Human and Comparative,' the fourth volume dealing with comparative anatomy, based chiefly on Cuvier and Blumenbach ; 9th edit. 1826; a 3rd American edit, in 2 vols. was published at Philadelphia in 1810. 3. 'A System of Anatomy' (first edition also called 'Compendium'), chiefly consisting of plates and explanatory references, Edinburgh, 1800, 3 vols. quarto, containing 160 plates and 700 figures; 4th edit. 1820. 4. 'Views of the Bones, Muscles, Viscera, and Organs of the Senses,' copied from the most celebrated authors, together with several additions from nature, 23 plates, folio, Edinburgh and London, 1800. 5. 'Outlines of Comparative Anatomy,' 1813; later edit. 1823, entitled 'A Compendium of Comparative Anatomy.' 6. 'On Crural Hernia,' 1818. In 1830 the plates to illustrate the 'Anatomy of the Human Body' (158 plates, 4to), and an octavo volume oif 'Descriptions of the Plates,' were posthumously issued.

Fyfe's eldest son, Andrew Fyfe (1792-1861), was born 18 Jan. 1792, graduated M.D. at Edinburgh in 1814, and became fellow of the Edinburgh College of Surgeons in 1818, and president in 1842-3. He lectured privately on chemistry and pharmacy at Edinburgh for many years, having been assistant to Professor Hope. He published in 1827 'Elements of Chemistry,' 2 vols., a full and well-digested work; 3rd edit. 1833. He was an unsuccessful candidate in 1832 for the chair of materia medica at Edinburgh, but in 1844 became professor of chemistry in the university of Aberdeen, and retained his professorship till his death on 31 Dec. 1861 at Edinburgh, though for some years his lectures were given by a deputy. His knowledge of inflammable substances was great, and he often gave evidence in official inquiries on such subjects. He was much esteemed both by his students and in private life. He was twice married; his son, also named Andrew Fyfe, was a London physician.

[Struthers's Historical Sketch of Edinburgh Anatomical School, 1867, pp. 74–6; Life of Sir Astley Cooper, i. 166, 172; Life of Sir R. Christison, i. 68; Aberdeen Journal, 8 Jan. 1862; information from Dr. Andrew Fyfe, London.]

G. T. B.