Page:Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement, volume 3.djvu/224

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Robertson
Robertson
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burgh, and published his observations on Calabar Bean in the 'Edinburgh Medical Journal.' He proved that its alkaloid, physostigmin, more commonly known as eserin, led to constriction of the pupil of the eye and thus provided a satisfactory myotic, the want of which had long been felt by oculists. This discovery attracted universal attention and made the young Edinburgh surgeon famous. In 1867 he was appointed assistant ophthalmic surgeon to the Royal Infirmary under Dr. William Walker, whose colleague he became in 1870. In 1882 Dr. Walker retired, and Argyll Robertson remained the sole ophthalmic surgeon to the Infirmary until 1897, when he was appointed consulting surgeon. He lectured on his subject for many years during each summer session. In 1869–70 he published in the 'Edinburgh Medical Journal' the records of the cases which showed that disease of the spinal cord is sometimes associated with loss of light reflex of the pupil, which still retains its movement on accommodation. This condition was christened by common accord 'the Argyll Robertson pupil,' and its value as an aid to diagnosis has steadily increased.

Robertson was president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh for 1886-7. He was the first president (1893-5) of the Ophthalmological Society of Great Britain to be chosen from the ophthalmic surgeons who practised outside London; he presided over the International Ophthalmological Clongress in Edinburgh in 1894, and over the Edinburgh Medico - Chirurgical Society in 1896. In 1896 the University of Edinburgh conferred upon him the honorary degree of LL.D. He was also surgeon oculist in Scotland to Queen Victoria and later to King Edward VII.

Argyll Robertson attained much repute as a golfer. He won the gold medal of the Royal and Ancient Club five times, and that of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers thrice. He was the first captain of the Royal Colleges Golf Club and presented to it a handsome scratch medal, which is known by his name and is awarded annually for the best scratch score. This medal he won himself on two occasions. He was also fond of shooting and was a member of the Royal Archers of the King's Body-Guard for Scotland, and he was a good curler and fisherman.

Robertson was one of the earliest in the United Kingdom to adopt ophthalmic surgery as an independent profession throughout his career; previously a surgeon adopted this branch of work after a longer or shorter experience of general surgery. As an operator he was neat, rapid, and resourceful, and he introduced into practice several new methods of procedure, especially that of trephining the sclerotic for the relief of glaucoma.

On retiring from practice in 1904 he settled at Mon Plaisir, St. Aubyn's, Jersey, where he took charge of the eldest daughter of the Thakur of Gondal, a former pupil at Edinburgh, and afterwards his friend. In 1892 and 1900 Robertson visited India and on a third visit in the winter of 1908-9 he died at Gondal, India, on 3 Jan. 1909; he was cremated on the banks of the river Gondh, the Thakur Sahib himself kindling the funeral pyre of his guru and friend.

He married in 1882 Carey, fourth daughter of William Nathaniel Fraser of Findrack and Tornaveen, Aberdeenshire, but had no family.

His portrait, painted by Sir George Reid, was presented to him by members of his profession before he retired from practice. A replica hangs in the Surgeons' Hall at Edinburgh.

[Edinburgh Med. Journal, 1909, N.S. ii. 159 (with portrait); Lancet, 1909, i. 208; Brit. Med. Journal, 1909, i. 191, 252 (with portrait); Hole's Quasi Cursores, 1884 (with portrait).]

D’A. P.


ROBERTSON, JAMES PATRICK BANNERMAN, Baron Robertson of Forteviot (1845–1909), lord president of the Court of Session in Scotland, born in the manse of Forteviot on 10 Aug. 1845, was second son of Robert John Robertson, parish minister of Forteviot, Perthshire, by his wife Helen, daughter of James Bannerman, parish minister of Cargill, Perthshire. He was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, of which he was 'dux,' or head boy, in 1860, and at Edinburgh University, where he specially distinguished himself as a political speaker in college debates, graduating M.A. in 1864. He became a member of the Juridical Society in 1866 (librarian 1868–9, president 1869–70), and passed to the Scottish bar on 16 July 1867. His progress was slow at first, but he gradually acquired a large practice. His interests were more in politics than law. 'Westminster seems to have been his real goal from the first' (The Times, 3 Feb. 1909). Early in life he lost sympathy with his presbyterian surroundings. At the disruption of the Scottish church (1843) his father had remained in the establishment, while his mother went out with those who formed the Free Church. Robertson himself, on