Pettigrew, James Bell (DNB12)

PETTIGREW, JAMES BELL (1834–1908), anatomist, born on 26 May 1834 at Roxhill, Lanarkshire, was son of Robert Pettigrew and Mary Bell. He was related on his father's side to Thomas Joseph Pettigrew [q. v.], and on his mother's side to Henry Bell [q. v.], the builder of the Comet steamship. Educated at the Free West Academy of Airdrie, he studied arts at the University of Glasgow from 1850 to 1855. He then migrated to Edinburgh, where he pursued medical studies. In 1858-9 he was awarded Professor John Goodsir's senior anatomy gold medal for the best treatise 'On the arrangement of the muscular fibres in the ventricles of the vertebrate heart' (Phil. Trans. 1864). This treatise procured him the appointment of Croonian lecturer at the Royal Society of London in 1860. He gained at Edinburgh in 1860 the annual gold medal in the class of medical jurisprudence with an essay 'On the presumption of survivorship' (Brit. and For. Med. Chirurg. Rev. Jan. 1865). He graduated M.D. at Edinburgh in 1861, obtaining the gold medal for his inaugural dissertation on 'the ganglia and nerves of the heart and their connection with the cerebrospinal and sympathetic systems in mammalia' (Proc. Royal Soc. Edin. 1865). In 1861 he acted as house surgeon to Prof. James Syme [q. v.] at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, and in 1862 he was appointed assistant in the Hunterian museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Here he remained until 1867, adding dissections to the collection and writing papers on various anatomical subjects. In 1867 he contributed a paper to the 'Transactions of the Linnean Society' 'On the mechanical appliances by which flight is maintained in the animal kingdom,' and in the same year he left the Hunterian museum in order to spend two years in the south of Ireland so as to extend his knowledge of the flight of insects, birds and bats. He also experimented largely on the subject of artificial flight.

Elected F.R.S. in 1869, in the autumn of that year he became curator of the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and pathologist at the Royal Infirmary. He continued his anatomical, physical, and physiological researches, especially those on flight, and in 1870 he published a memoir 'On the physiology of wings, being an analysis of the movements by which flight is produced in the insect, bird and bat' (Trans. Royal Soc. Edin. vol. xxvi.).

At Edinburgh he was elected F.R.S. in 1872 and F.R.C.P. in 1873. He was appointed in the same year lecturer on physiology at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. In 1874 he was awarded the Godard prize of the French Academie des Sciences for his anatomico-physiological researches and was made a laureate of the Institut de France. In 1875 he was appointed Chandos professor of medicine and anatomy and dean of the medical faculty in the university of St. Andrews. In 1875-6-7 he delivered special courses of lectures on physiology in Dundee, and University College, Dundee, owes its origin largely to his efforts. In 1877 he was elected by the Universities of Glasgow and St. Andrews to represent those bodies on the General Medical Council. He continued the dual representation until 1886, when a new medical act enabled each of the Scottish universities to return its own member. Pettigrew thenceforth represented St. Andrews on the council. In 1883 he received the hon. degree of LL.D. at Glasgow.

He died at his residence, the Swallowgate, St. Andrews, on 30 Jan. 1908. He married in 1890 Elsie, second daughter of Sir William Gray, of Greatham, Durham, but left no family. His portrait by W. W. Ouless was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1902. A museum for the botanic gardens was erected in his memory by his widow as an adjunct to the Bute medical buildings of St. Andrews University.

Pettigrew was author of: 1. 'Animal Locomotion, or Walking, Swimming, and Flying, with a Dissertation on Aeronautics,' in International Scientific Series, 1873, translated into French (1874) and into German (1879). 2. 'The Physiology of Circulation in Plants, in the Lower Animals and in Man,' illustrated, 1874. 3. 'Design in Nature,' illustrated by spiral and other arrangements in the inorganic and organic kingdoms, 3 vols. 4to, 1908, published posthumously; this work occupied the last ten years of Pettigrew's life.

[Men and Women of the Time, 1899; Lancet, 1908, vol. i. p. 471; Brit. Med. Journal, 1908, vol. i. p. 357; information kindly given by Mrs. Bell Pettigrew.]

D’A. P.