Struthers, John (DNB01)

STRUTHERS, Sir JOHN (1823–1899), anatomist, second son of Alexander Struthers, was born at Brucefield, Dunfermline, on 21 Feb. 1823, and was educated privately. He studied medicine in Edinburgh, where he was admitted successively a licentiate and a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and a doctor of medicine of the university in 1845. On 22 Oct. 1847 he was licensed by the Royal College of Surgeons to teach anatomy in the extramural school, which he did so successfully that he was invited to supply the place of Professor John Goodsir (1814-1867) [q. v.] during his illness in the winter of 1853–4.

In 1854 Struthers was appointed one of the assistant surgeons to the Royal Infirmary, and a few years later he became full surgeon, an office he resigned in 1863, when he was appointed to the chair of anatomy at Aberdeen. The university of Aberdeen had begun a new existence on 15 Sept. 1860 by the fusion of the two old universities, and by the new scheme law and medicine were taught in Marischal College. The accommodation, however, was meagre, and the students were few, when Struthers entered on his duties; but when he left the university in 1889 the number of students had more than doubled, and there was a museum of anatomy which was almost unequalled, while the Royal Infirmary had been greatly enlarged, and was famous throughout the United Kingdom for the excellence of its clinical teaching. In 1881 Struthers established a medal and a prize for anatomy in the university of Aberdeen, and in 1889 he resigned his post and returned to Edinburgh.

In Edinburgh he became chairman of the board of directors of Leith Hospital, and worked hard to secure its extension to a hundred beds to satisfy the academic teaching requirements. He was also elected a manager of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he was particularly interested in the improvement and extension of the operating theatres.

Struthers was a member and president of the Royal Physical Society, and a member of the board of management of the Royal Dispensary, Edinburgh. In 1885 the university of Glasgow conferred upon him the honorary degree of LL.D. He was president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh from 1895 to 1897, and he then proved a great benefactor to the museum. He remained a vice-president and an examiner of the college until his death. He was a member of the General Medical Council for the united universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen from 1883-6, and for the university of Aberdeen alone from 1886-91. He served in this body as chairman of the education committee, and in this capacity drew up a report which led to important changes in the medical curriculum. He was knighted in 1898.

He died on 24 Feb. 1899, and is buried in the Warriston cemetery, Edinburgh. In 1892, after his retirement from the chair of anatomy in Aberdeen, he was presented by a number of old pupils and friends with his portrait painted by Sir George Reid, P.R.S.A. A replica hangs in the new picture gallery of the Marischal College, Aberdeen. He married, on 5 Aug. 1857, Christina, a daughter of James Alexander, surgeon, of Wooler, Northumberland, by whom he had five sons and four daughters.

Struthers was a skilled anatomist, and one of the earliest advocates in Scotland of the Darwinian hypothesis of natural selection. He was by nature a reformer and an organiser, and to his exertions the university of Aberdeen owes in great measure the success of her medical school.

Struthers wrote a large number of papers on human and comparative anatomy. In a pamphlet entitled 'References to Papers in Anatomy,' published in 1889, he gives a list of seventy papers which he had written up to that date, and he subsequently added several more. The most valuable part of his scientific work is a series of papers on the anatomy of various cetaceans. He also published a book of 'Anatomical and Physiological Observations,' part i. 1854, part ii. 1863; and an 'Historical Sketch of the Edinburgh Anatomical School,' 1867, 8vo.

[Personal knowledge; British Medical Journal, 1899, i. 561; private information.]

D’A. P.