Thomas Richard Fraser

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Thomas Fraser
Thomas Richard Fraser.jpg
A photograph of Fraser by Andrew Swan Watson
Born(1841-02-05)5 February 1841
Died4 January 1920(1920-01-04) (aged 78)
13 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh 13 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh.jpg
13 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh
The grave of Thomas Richard Fraser, Dean Cemetery The grave of Thomas Richard Fraser, Dean Cemetery.jpg
The grave of Thomas Richard Fraser, Dean Cemetery

Sir Thomas Richard Fraser FRS FRSE (5 February 1841 – 4 January 1920) was a British physician and pharmacologist. [1] [2] [3] Together with Alexander Crum Brown he discovered the relationship between physiological activity and chemical constitution of the body.

Fellow of the Royal Society Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, including Honorary, Foreign and Royal Fellows

Fellowship of the Royal Society is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of London judges to have made a 'substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science'.

Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Award granted by the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland, judges to be "eminently distinguished in their subject".

Alexander Crum Brown Scottish organic chemist

Alexander Crum Brown FRSE FRS was a Scottish organic chemist. Alexander Crum Brown Road in Edinburgh's King's Buildings complex is named after him.



He was born in Calcutta in India on 5 February 1841.

India Country in South Asia

India, also known as the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh largest country by area and with more than 1.3 billion people, it is the second most populous country and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the northeast; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, while its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Fraser attended the University of Edinburgh Medical School and graduated MD with gold medal in 1862. His award-winning thesis was based upon the positive medical applications of physostigmine. This had been discovered by Sir Robert Christison in 1846 but its suggested uses were largely as a humane killing mechanism than as a medical tool. [4]

The University of Edinburgh Medical School is the medical school of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and part of the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, the head of which is Sir John Savill. Moira Whyte has been head of the school since 2016. It was established in 1726, during the Scottish Enlightenment, making it the oldest medical school in the United Kingdom and is one of the oldest medical schools in the English-speaking world.

A Doctor of Medicine is a medical degree, the meaning of which varies between different jurisdictions. In the United States, Canada and other countries, the MD denotes a professional graduate degree awarded upon graduation from medical school. In the United Kingdom, Ireland and other countries, the MD is a research doctorate, higher doctorate, honorary doctorate or applied clinical degree restricted to those who already hold a professional degree in medicine; in those countries, the equivalent professional degree is typically titled Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS).

Physostigmine chemical compound

Physostigmine is a highly toxic parasympathomimetic alkaloid, specifically, a reversible cholinesterase inhibitor. It occurs naturally in the Calabar bean and the Manchineel tree.

In 1869 Fraser was a medical assistant professor at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. In 1877 he was a member of an arctic expedition and later in 1877 was appointed professor of medicine at the University of Edinburgh until 1918. In 1880 he was nominated Dean of the Medical Faculty.

In his later life he was both a consultant of insurance companies and of the Scottish Prisons Commission.

Scottish Prison Service executive agency

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is an executive agency of the Scottish Government tasked with managing prisons and Young Offender Institutions.

In 1867 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposer was Sir Robert Christison. He served as the Society's Vice President from 1911 to 1916. He won the Society's Keith Prize for 1891-3 and its Makdougall-Brisbane Prize 1866-8. In 1877 he also was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. [5]

Royal Society of Edinburgh academy of sciences

The Royal Society of Edinburgh is Scotland's national academy of science and letters. It is a registered charity, operating on a wholly independent and non-party-political basis and providing public benefit throughout Scotland. It was established in 1783. As of 2017, it has more than 1,660 Fellows.

Robert Christison British toxicologist and physician

Sir Robert Christison, 1st Baronet, FRSE FRCSE FRCPE, was a Scottish toxicologist and physician who served as president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and as president of the British Medical Association (1875). He was the first person to describe renal anaemia.

In 1889 and 1890 he reported about an arrow poison used in coastal areas of Kenya and Nigeria and analyzed the highly poisonous Calabar bean and Strophanthus hispidus. [6] [7] From 1898 to 1899 he was president of the Government Commission for the research on the plague in India. He served as President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh from 1900 to 1902. In 1902 he was knighted by King Edward VII for his work on the Indian Plague Commission. [4] In 1908 he was elected President of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland. [5]

He received honorary doctorates from the University of Aberdeen (LLD), the University of Glasgow (LLD), the University of Edinburgh (LLD), the University of Cambridge (DSc) and the University of Dublin (MD). [4]

In later years he lived at 13 Drumsheugh Gardens in Edinburgh's West End. [8]

He died in Edinburgh on 4 January 1920. He is buried in Dean Cemetery in western Edinburgh, not far from his home. The grave lies in the south-west of the first northern extension, on the wall backing onto the original cemetery.


With his wife Susanna Margaret Duncan Fraser (1850–1929) he had eight sons and three daughters. His eldest son, Thomas, was given the middle name Christison in honour of the discoverer of Physostygmine. His second son was George Moir Fraser (1878–1832). His third son, John Duncan Fraser, died in infancy in 1882. His fourth son, Lieutenant Commander William St. John Fraser (1883–1915), was commander of the submarine E 10 when it was destroyed by enemy action in the North Sea near Heligoland with the loss of all hands. His fifth son, Sir Francis Richard Fraser (1885–1964), also became a Professor of Materia Medica in Edinburgh. His sixth son was Henry Chapman Fraser (1887–1916). His seventh son, Frederick Palmer Fraser (1891–1907) died young. His youngest son was Eric Malcolm Fraser (1896–1960). His daughters were Mary Susanna Fraser (1877–1956), Gertrude Agnes Fraser (b. 1882) and Caroline Annie Fraser (1889–1966).

Artistic recognition

His sketch portrait of 1884, by William Brassey Hole, is held by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. [9]


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  1. "SIR THOMAS RICHARD FRASER, M.D., F.R.S., LL.D.Aberd., Glasg., Edin., Sc.D.Camb., etc". BMJ. 1 (3081): 100. 1920. doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3081.100. PMC   2336911 .
  2. Biographisches Lexikon hervorragender Ärzte bei. Retrieved on 5 June 2014.
  3. Thomas Richard Fraser, toxicologist, 1884. (23 April 2008). Retrieved on 5 June 2014.
  4. 1 2 3
  5. 1 2 Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN   0 902 198 84 X.
  6. T. R. Fraser. Retrieved on 5 June 2014.
  7. Neuwinger, H.D. Afrikanische Ethnobotanik: Gifte und Arzneien.
  8. Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1911–12
  9. "Artworks | Page 13 | National Galleries of Scotland". Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  10. "On the Physiological Action of the Calabar Bean". J Anat Physiol. 1 (2): 323–32. 1867. PMC   1318559 . PMID   17230725.
Academic offices
Preceded by
James Andrew
President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Succeeded by
Thomas Clouston