1902 Encyclopedia > John Brown

John Brown
English physician

JOHN BROWN, the founder of the Brunonian theory of physic, was born in 1735 at Lintlaws or at Preston, Berwickshire. He was originally destined for the employment of a weaver, but the boy's talents attracted the attention of his schoolmaster, through whose endeavours his parents were encouraged to allow him to begin study for the church. At the age of twenty be came to Edinburgh and entered the classes at the university, supporting himself by private tuition. In 1759 he seems to have discontinued his theological studies, and to have begun the study of medicine. He soon attracted the notice of Dr Cullen, who engaged him as private tutor to his family, and treated him in some respects as an assistant professor. Brown, however, thought that Cullen did not advance his candidature for a vacant chair, and the friendship between the two was soon completely broken. In 1780 appeared the Elementa Medicines; expounding the new, or as it was then called the Brunonian, theory of medicine. The fundamental idea of this theory was the division of diseases into two classes, sthenic and asthenic, the one caused by excess, the other by deficiency of excitement, and the consequent method of treatment by debilitating or stimulating medicines. That Brown's ideas should have excited the discussion they did seems now incredible. Shortly after the publication he obtained the degree of M.D. at St Andrews, and in 1786 he set out for London in the hope of bettering his fortunes. He died of apoplexy in October 1788. A Life of Brown by Beddoes was published in 1801. An edition of his works, with notice of his life by his son, W. C. Brown, appeared in 1804.

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