Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Murray, James (1788-1871)

MURRAY, Sir JAMES (1788–1871), discoverer of fluid magnesia, born in co. Londonderry in 1788, was son of Edward Murray of that county. He studied medicine in Edinburgh and Dublin, and in 1807 became a licentiate of the College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, and in the following year was admitted a member of the Dublin college. In 1809 he married a Miss Sharrock, and seems to have settled down as a practising physician in Belfast. In 1817 he published a paper on 'The Danger of using Solid Magnesia, and on its great value in a Fluid State for internal use.' He gave much time and attention to the dissemination of his views on this subject, and is said to have taken out a patent, although it is not noticed in Woodcroft's 'Index of Patents.' In 1829 he graduated M.D. at Edinburgh University, and in the same year published his treatise on 'Heat and Humidity.' The success of this work led the Marquis of Anglesey, then lord-lieutenant of Ireland, to appoint him his resident physician and to knight him. In 1832 Murray was presented with the honorary degree of M.D. Dublin University. He secured an extensive practice in Dublin, and was continued in his post of resident physician by the Marquis of Normanby and Viscount Ebrington, and received the appointment of inspector of anatomy in Dublin, a post which he held nearly forty years. In 1834 he accompanied Lord Anglesey to Rome, and returned in the following year. He established a manufactory for fluid magnesia, which still benefits his descendants, and successfully prosecuted several firms for infringements of his patent. He formulated various theories, such as a system of dry cupping, a proposal for the prevention of cholera by the insertion of a layer of non-conducting material beneath the ground floors of dwelling-houses, and was probably the first to suggest electricity as a curative agent, in which he strongly believed. He also suggested the utilisation of atmospheric pressure in air-baths. His work on ' Cholera,' published in 1844, was translated into Italian. His death took place in Upper Temple Street, Dublin, on 8 Dec. 1871, at the age of eighty-four, and he was buried at Glasnevin. His son, John Fisher Murray [q. v.], predeceased him.

The following are Murray's most important works : 1. 'Dissertation on the Influence of Heat and Humidity, with Practical Observations on the Inhalation of Iodine,' 8vo, London, 1829. 2. 'Four Letters on the Relief of the Sick Poor in Ireland,' 8vo, Dublin, 1837. 3. 'Abstract of a Popular Lecture on Artificial Respiration,' 8vo, Dublin, 1838. 4. 'Observations on Fluid Magnesia,' 8vo, London, 1840. 5. 'Electricity as a Cause of Cholera or other Epidemics, and the Relation of Galvanism to the Action of Remedies,' 12mo, Dublin, 1849.

[Lancet, 16 Dec. 1871; Northern Whig, 13 Dec. 1871; Irish Times, 12 Dec. 1871; Brit. Mus. Cat.; private information.]

D. J. O'D.