1902 Encyclopedia > Andrew Combe

Andrew Combe
Scottish physician and phrenologist

ANDREW COMBE, M.D. (1797-1847), was born in Edinburgh, 27th October 1797. His name holds an honoured place in the roll of sanitary reformers. Instead of waiting till disease was developed, he sought its pre-vention by the adoption of a careful system of hygiene. He served an apprenticeship in a surgery, and in 1817 passed at Surgeons' Hall. He proceeded to Paris to complete his medical studies, and whilst there he investi-gated phrenology on anatomical principles. He became convinced of the truth of the new science, and, as he acquired much skill in the dissection of the brain, he subsequently gave additional interest to the lectures of his brother George, by his practical demonstrations of the convolutions. He returned to Edinburgh in 1819 with the intention of beginning practice; but being attacked by the first symptoms of pulmonary disease, he was obliged to seek health in the south of France and in Italy during the two following winters. He began to practise in 1823, and by careful adherence to the laws of health he was enabled to fulfil the duties of his profession for nine years, During that period he assisted in editing the Phrenological Journal and contributed a number of articles to it, defended phrenology before the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh, published his Observations on Mental Derangement (1831), and prepared the greater-portion of his Principles of Physiology Applied to Health. The latter work was issued in 1834, and immediately obtained extensive public favour. In 1836 he was ap-pointed physician to Leopold I., king of the Belgians, and removed to Brussels. He had only been there a few months, however, when another severe attack of haemop-tysis warned him that the climate was unsuitable, and would speedily render him unequal to the duties of his position. Scrupulously conscientious in everything, he at once re-signed. The king and Baron Stockmar persuaded him to remain a few weeks longer in the hope that he might re-cover ; but they were disappointed. He continued, however, to hold the position of consulting physician to his majesty. In Edinburgh he proceeded to work with renewed energy; he published his Physiology of Digestion, and resumed practice as a consulting physician, his advice being eagerly sought by old and new patients and by his professional brethren. In 1838 he was appointed one of the physicians extraor-dinary to the queen in Scotland. Two years later he com-pleted his Physiological and Moral Management of Infancy, which he believed to be his best work, and it was his last. He suffered at intervals from extreme weakness, and in 1842 the symptoms became alarming. His latter years were mostly occupied in seeking at various health resorts some alleviation of his disease; he spent two winters in Madeira, and tried a voyage to the United States, but was compelled to return within a few weeks of the date of his landing at New York. He went on a visit to a nephew at Gorgie, near Edinburgh, and there he died on the 9th August 1847. His last literary effort was a paper on ship-fever, which was published in the Times after his death ; its principal suggestions have been carried out by the Act 12 and 13 Vict. c. 23. His biography, written by George Combe, was published in 1850.

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