CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 3790
TitleSir John Forbes, knight physician: diplomas
Date1817 - 1852
Extent23 items
Creator NameForbes; John (1787-1861); knight physician
Administrative HistoryJohn Forbes was born near Cullen in Aberdeenshire on 17 December 1787. Aged, 15, he spent a year at Aberdeen Grammar school before spending two years studying at Marischal College (1803 - 1805) although there is no record of his having graduated. the following year, he gained his diploma from the College of Surgeons in Edinburgh and enlisted in the Royal Navy as a temporary assistant surgeon on HMS Royal George in 1807. Two year later, he was confirmed as full surgeon and he served in the navy until the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815. He returned to Scotland and studied at the University of Edinburgh, gaining his MD in August 1817.

He moved to Cornwall the following month to begin medical practice in Penzance. He was also physician to the Penzance Public Dispensary. During this time, he studied the use of the newly introduced stethescope and wrote several papers on the lung diseases then suffered by Cornish miners, including pulmonary tuberculosis. He translated 'De L'Auscultation Mediate' by Rene Laennec into English. It appeared as 'A Treatise into Diseases of the Chest' in 1821. Although it received much criticism as he rearranged and abridged the original, it was a great success.

He also had interests outside of medicine. In 1818, he was the first Honorary Librarian to the Penzance Public Library and was secretary to the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall. He contributed a paper on the health and working conditions of Cornish miners to the latter's 'Transactions' in 1822.

He moved to Chichester in 1822 where he built up a large and wealthy practice. His son, Alexander Clark Forbes, was born there in 1824. In 1829, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society and two years later he was appointed physician-in-ordinary to the Duke of Cambridge. In 1831, he founded the Chichester Literary and Philosophical Society and spent some time fundraising to replace the aging Chichester Public Dispensary with a new infirmary.

He continued to publish during this period. His works included 'Original cases with dissections and observations illustrating the use of the stethoscope and percussion in diagnosis of diseases of the chest' (1824), he collaborated with two others on a 'Cyclopedia of Practical Medicine' (1832 -1835) and in conjunction with Dr John Connolly, he published the 'British and foriegn medical review' (1836 - 1847).

He moved to Westminster, London in 1840 and the following year he was appointed Court Physician to Queen Victoria and the Royal Household. He gained a fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians in 1844 and the following year was awarded an honorary fellowship of the Imperial College of Physicians in Vienna. He was appointed one of the first two consulting physicians to the Brompton Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest in 1846 but retired from medical practice in 1848.

He was knighted in 1853 and died on 13 November 1861.
Custodial HistoryDeposited by David Forbes, Australia and descendant of John Forbes in October 2008.
DescriptionSir John Forbes: diplomas, 1817 - 1852.
AppraisalThis material has been appraised in line with normal procedures.
AccrualsNone expected.
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsThe records are available subject to the signed acceptance of the Department's access conditions.
LanguageEnglish and Latin
Physical DescriptionNo physical conditions affecting use of collection.
Related MaterialMS 2908 - John Forbes: Case-notes on patients at the Penzance Public Dispensary
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