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James Young Simpson Papers

James Simpson was born in Bathgate, West Lothian, the seventh son of a baker. He was educated at the local school and went to Edinburgh University at the age of 14. Too young to graduate, he became a Licentiate of the College in 1830 before graduating in 1832.

He became Professor of Midwifery at Edinburgh University in 1840, Physician to Queen Victoria in 1847, President of the Royal College of Physicians in 1850 and Baronet in 1866.

A man of enormous energy and great personal charm, Simpson was a keen controversialist and much loved physician. His contributions to obstetrics are overshadowed by his discovery of the anaesthetic effects of chloroform in November 1847. After ether was discovered in 1846, Simpson was quick to use it to relieve the pains of labour, earning the gratitude of countless women and the condemnation of some members of the church and the medical profession. Simpson was a doughty advocate of the cause of general anaesthesia and his final vindication came when Queen Victoria had chloroform at the birth of Prince Leopold in 1853.

He made many valuable contributions to the advancement of midwifery both by the invention of new instruments and the introduction of new methods. In 1844 he opened a Dispensary for Women and Children in St John Street, Edinburgh and, over the next three years, 7617 patients were registered.

He achieved world-wide fame and visitors from all over the world came to see him at his home in 52 Queen Street.

JYS Items 1 to 1873

The table below contains a brief overview of the papers held in the Archives for James Young Simpson.

A fuller description of the James Young Simpson papers can be downloaded below.

Item Number Item Description
1-181 Correspondence and papers of J.Y. Simpson concerning the administration of ether (1847) and the discovery and early use of chloroform.
182-233 Correspondence and papers of J.Y. Simpson concerning the use of anaesthesia in midwifery. 1847-1849.
234-340 Correspondence and papers of J.Y. Simpson concerning obstetrics and gynaecology. 1840-1868.
341-379 J.Y. Simpson's correspondence and papers on homoeopathy 1851-1858.
380-407 J.Y. Simpson's correspondence with Dr. David Greig, 1860-1869, and other papers respecting acupressure in surgery.
408-438 Correspondence and papers of J.Y. Simpson concerning various medical subjects (inoculation, plagues, puerperal fever, leprosy, genetics and mesmerism.) 1845-1861.
439-525 Correspondence concerning, and reprints of, various medical publications. 1837-1894.
526-606 General medical correspondence of J.Y. Simpson. 1837-1871.
607-676 Correspondence relating to J.Y. Simpson's private practice. 1843-1870.
677-713 Papers relating to the foster care of Mary White and Rochester Quinton. 1850-1866.
714-834 Correspondence relating to professional disputes involving J.Y. Simpson. 1839-1868.
835-906 Correspondence relating to the medical reform bill, mainly 1856-1858.
907-972 University papers - 1836-1868.
973-1050 Correspondence relating to the principalship contest between J.Y. Simpson and Sir Alexander Grant. 1863.
1051-1079 Miscellaneous rough notes of J.Y. Simpson. 1829-1867.
1080-1102 Religious correspondence and papers of J.Y. Simpson, 1852-1865.
1103-1194 J.Y. Simpson's correspondence and notes and papers in his possession respecting archaeology and antiquities, 1823-1870.
1195-1240 Correspondence concerning the Grindlay shipping business, 1843-1859.
1241-1287 Correspondence and comments relating to various mineral and mining ventures, etc. 1857-1888.
1288-1311 Correspondence and papers relating to J.Y. Simpson's sugar estates in Tobago. 1866-1868.
1312-1382 Correspondence and papers respecting the trust disposition and settlement, shares and properties owned by J.Y. Simpson and his heirs. 1840-1901.
1383-1406 Domestic accounts of the Simpson family. 1847-1902.
1407-1467 Family correspondence and related documents. 1832-1948.
1468-1573 Correspondence to J.Y. Simpson congratulating him on his baronetcy, 1866.
1574-1735 Letters of condolence. 1862-1870.
1736-1873 Miscellaneous correspondence and documents of the Simpson family, 1819-1948.

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