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George Fordyce

George Fordyce
Born 18 November 1736
Aberdeen, Scotland
Died 25 May 1802
London, England
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Academic advisors William Cullen[1]

George Fordyce (18 November 1736 – 25 May 1802) was a distinguished Scottish physician, lecturer on medicine, and chemist, who was a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

Early life

George Fordyce was born at Aberdeen in 1736, a short time after the death of his father, George Fordyce, proprietor of a small landed estate called Broadford, near the city. He was taken from home at the age of two following his mother's remarriage and was sent to Foveran, Aberdeenshire, where he received his schooling. Following that he attended the University of Aberdeen where he attained the degree of Master of Arts at the age of 14.


Fordyce had decided to study medicine and was apprenticed to his uncle, Dr. John Fordyce, in Uppingham, in Rutland. He later returned to Edinburgh, where he took his degree of M.D. in 1758; his inaugural dissertation was on catarrh. From Edinburgh he went to Leyden, where he studied anatomy under the famous anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus.

In 1759 he returned to England, having decided to settle in London as a teacher and medical practitioner. Despite his relations' disapproval, he persisted, and by the end of 1759 had commenced a course of lectures upon chemistry. In 1764, he also began to lecture upon Materia medica and the practice of physic. He delivered these lectures for nearly 30 years.

In 1765 he became a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and in 1770 was elected physician to St Thomas' Hospital. In 1774 he was chosen as a member of the Literary Club, in 1776 a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1778 a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. This latter was chiefly to secure his assistance with a new edition of the College's Pharmacopoeia. He was Harveian Orator in 1791.

In 1783, with John Hunter, he assisted in setting up a small society of physicians and surgeons, which later published several volumes of transactions under the title of Transactions of a Society for the improvement of medical and chirurgical knowledge, and attended its meetings regularly until shortly before his death.


In 1762 he married the daughter of Charles Stuart, Esq., conservator of Scottish privileges in the United Netherlands, by whom he had four children: two sons and two daughters. His daughter Sophia Fordyce married Samuel Bentham (Jeremy Bentham's brother).

He died in London in 1802 and was buried at St Anne's, Soho.



  • Elements of Agriculture and Vegetation (London, 1781). This was a collection of a course of lectures assembled by one of his listeners. Fordyce corrected the copy, and afterwards published it under this title.
  • Elements of the practice of Physic (London, 1768–1770). This was used by him as a textbook for a part of his course of lectures on that subject.
  • A Treatise on the Digestion of Food (London, 1791). It was originally read before the College of Physicians, as the Guelstonian Lecture.
  • Four Dissertations on Fever (1794–1803). A fifth, which completed the subject, was left by him in manuscript form, and posthumously published. Boston 1823 edition.


Published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society:

  • Of the Light produced by Inflammation.
  • Examination of various Ores in the Museum of Dr W. Hunter.
  • A New Method of assaying Copper Ores.
  • An Account of some Experiments on the Loss of Weight in Bodies on being melted or heated.
  • An Account of an Experiment on Heat.
  • The Cronian Lecture on Muscular Motion.
  • On the Cause of the additional Weight which Metals acquire on being calcined.
  • Account of a New Pendulum, being the Bakerian Lecture.

Published in the Medical and Chirurgical Transactions:

  • Observations on the Small-pox, and Causes of Fever.
  • An Attempt to improve the Evidence of Medicine.
  • Some Observations upon the composition of Medicines.


  1. Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, Christine Blondel (eds.), Sciences and Spectacle in the European Enlightenment, Ashgate Publishing, 2008, p. 19.


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