James Douglas (physician)

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James Douglas FRS (21 March 1675 – 2 April 1742) was a Scottish physician and anatomist, and Physician Extraordinary to Queen Caroline.

Caroline of Ansbach Queen of Great Britain 1727–1737 (as wife of King George II)

Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach was Queen of Great Britain as the wife of King George II.


Life and works

One of the seven sons of William Douglas (died 1705) and his wife, Joan, daughter of James Mason of Park, Blantyre, he was born in West Calder, West Lothian, in 1675. His brother was the well-known lithotomist John Douglas (died 1759).

West Calder town in West Lothian, Scotland

West Calder is a town in West Lothian, Scotland, located 4 miles west of Livingston. The town was an important centre for the oil shale economy in the 19th and 20th Centuries. West Calder has its own railway station. The surrounding villages that take the town's name in their address - Polbeth, Addiewell, Loganlee, Harburn and Westwood - outline the area that this town encompasses, and they all have played an important part in the history of the town as well as West Lothian. It is also the most northerly centre of the Dogs Trust, closely followed by the new centre at Glasgow. The town is a 10-minute drive from Livingston, which is host to two large shopping centres.

West Lothian Council area of Scotland

West Lothian is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, and one of its historic counties. The county, which was also known as Linlithgowshire, was bounded by the Avon to the west and the Almond to the east. The modern council area occupies a smaller area, with areas in the west transferred to Falkirk and areas in the east transferred to Edinburgh following local government reforms in the late 20th century. It did however gain areas from Midlothian.

Lithotomy surgical method for removal of calculi, stones formed inside certain organs

Lithotomy from Greek for "lithos" (stone) and "tomos" (cut), is a surgical method for removal of calculi, stones formed inside certain organs, such as the kidneys, bladder, and gallbladder (gallstones), that cannot exit naturally through the urinary system or biliary tract. The procedure, which is usually performed by means of a surgical incision, differs from lithotripsy, wherein the stones are crushed either by a minimally invasive probe inserted through the exit canal, or by an acoustic pulse, which is a non-invasive procedure.

In 1694 he graduated MA from the University of Edinburgh and then took his medical doctorate at Reims before going to London in 1700.

University of Edinburgh public research university in Edinburgh, Scotland

The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582, is the sixth oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's ancient universities. The university has five main campuses in the city of Edinburgh, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university. The university played an important role in leading Edinburgh to its reputation as a chief intellectual centre during the Age of Enlightenment, and helped give the city the nickname of the Athens of the North.

Reims Subprefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Reims, a city in the Grand Est region of France, lies 129 km (80 mi) east-northeast of Paris. The 2013 census recorded 182,592 inhabitants in the city of Reims proper, and 317,611 inhabitants in the metropolitan area. Its primary river, the Vesle, is a tributary of the Aisne.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

He worked as an obstetrician, and gaining a great reputation as a physician, was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1706, FCP in 1721.

One of the most respected anatomists in the country, Douglas was also a well-known man-midwife. He was asked to investigate the case of Mary Toft, an English woman from Godalming, Surrey, who in 1726 became the subject of considerable controversy when she tricked doctors into believing that she had given birth to rabbits. Despite his early scepticism (Douglas thought that a woman giving birth to rabbits was as likely as a rabbit giving birth to a human child), Douglas went to see Toft, and subsequently exposed her as a fraud.

Mary Toft English medical hoaxer

Mary Toft, also spelled Tofts, was an English woman from Godalming, Surrey, who in 1726 became the subject of considerable controversy when she tricked doctors into believing that she had given birth to rabbits.

Douglas practiced midwifery and performed public dissections at home.

Douglas mentored and befriended anatomist and surgeon William Hunter (17181783), whom he met in 1740 when Hunter came to London. Hunter would live in the Douglas household and remained there after Douglas died in London on 2 April 1742, leaving a widow and two children.

William Hunter (anatomist) Scottish anatomist and physician

William Hunter was a Scottish anatomist and physician. He was a leading teacher of anatomy, and the outstanding obstetrician of his day. His guidance and training of his equally famous brother, John Hunter, was also of great importance.

Douglas produced a series of manuscript English, French, Latin and Greek grammars, and an ample index to the works of Horace. A Treatise on English Pronunciation by James Douglas (1914) was edited by Anna Paues. Another edition was due to Börje Holmberg (Lund, 1956). [1] He undertook botanical studies, notably his monograph on the Guernsey Lily.


As a result of Douglas's investigations of female pelvic anatomy, several anatomical terms bear his name:

Douglas pouch
Peritoneal space formed by deflection of the peritoneum.
Inflammation of Douglas pouch.
Douglas abscess
Suppuration in Douglas pouch, most often seen in appendicitis or adnexitis.
Douglas fold
A fold of peritoneum forming the lateral boundary of Douglas' pouch.
Douglas line
The arcuate line of the sheath of the rectus abdominis muscle.
Douglas septum
The septum formed by the union of Rathke's folds, forming the rectum of the fetus.


  1. James Douglas on English Pronunciation, c. 1740; [an edition of the Hunterian Museum manuscript no. 586 edited, with an introduction and commentary, by Börje Holmberg; a thesis.] Lund: Gleerup, 1956

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