Thomas Stewart Traill

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Thomas Stewart Traill Thomas Stewart Traill. Lithograph. Wellcome V0005885.jpg
Thomas Stewart Traill
Albyn Place, Edinburgh Albyn Place 1-11, Edinburgh.JPG
Albyn Place, Edinburgh
The grave of Thomas Stewart Traill, St Cuthbert's churchyard, Edinburgh The grave of Thomas Stewart Traill, St Cuthbert's churchyard, Edinburgh.JPG
The grave of Thomas Stewart Traill, St Cuthbert's churchyard, Edinburgh

Thomas Stewart Traill FRSE PRCPE MWS RSSA (29 October 1781 – 30 July 1862) was a Scottish physician, chemist, meteorologist, zoologist and scholar of medical jurisprudence. He was the grandfather of the physicist, meteorologist and geologist Robert Traill Omond FRSE (1858-1914).

The Royal Scottish Society of Arts is a learned society in Scotland, dedicated to the study of science and technology. It was founded as The Society for the Encouragement of the Useful Arts in Scotland by Sir David Brewster in 1821 and dedicated to "the promotion of invention and enterprise". The Society was granted a Royal Charter in 1841.

Physician professional who practices medicine

A physician, medical practitioner, medical doctor, or simply doctor, is a professional who practises medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining, or restoring health through the study, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments. Physicians may focus their practice on certain disease categories, types of patients, and methods of treatment—known as specialities—or they may assume responsibility for the provision of continuing and comprehensive medical care to individuals, families, and communities—known as general practice. Medical practice properly requires both a detailed knowledge of the academic disciplines, such as anatomy and physiology, underlying diseases and their treatment—the science of medicine—and also a decent competence in its applied practice—the art or craft of medicine.

Chemist Scientist trained in the study of chemistry

A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms. Chemists carefully measure substance proportions, reaction rates, and other chemical properties. The word 'chemist' is also used to address Pharmacists in Commonwealth English.


Early life

Traill was born at Kirkwall in Orkney, the son of the Rev Thomas Traill (died 1782), the minister in Kirkwall, and his wife Lucia. [1] His father died the year after he was born. [2]

Kirkwall town in Orkney Islands, Scotland

Kirkwall is the largest town of Orkney, an archipelago to the north of mainland Scotland.

He studied Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, gaining his doctorate (MD) in 1802. [3] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1819. His proposers were Robert Jameson, John Murray, Lord Murray, and Thomas Charles Hope. He was Curator of the Society's museum from 1834 to 1856. [4]

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.

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 Jameson British scientist

Professor Robert Jameson FRS FRSE was a Scottish naturalist and mineralogist.

He practiced medicine for 30 years in Liverpool, and was a founder of the Royal Institution of Liverpool, the Liverpool Mechanics' Institution and the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool. He became acquainted with the Arctic explorer William Scoresby, contributing a list of animals observed in eastern Greenland to Scoresby's Journal of a Voyage to the Northern Whale Fishery (1823). Scoresby named Traill Island in Greenland for him. Mount Traill in Nigeria was named after him by William Balfour Baikie.

Liverpool City and metropolitan borough in England

Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough in Merseyside, England. As of 2018, the population of Liverpool is approximately 494,814. Liverpool is the ninth-largest English district by population, and the largest in Merseyside and the Liverpool City Region. It lies within the United Kingdom's sixth-most populous urban area, and at the centre of the fifth-largest metropolitan area with a population of 2.24 million.

William Scoresby English Arctic explorer, scientist and clergyman

Rev Dr William Scoresby FRS FRSE DD, was an English Arctic explorer, scientist and clergyman.

Greenland autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark

Greenland is the world's largest island, located between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. It is an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for more than a millennium. The majority of its residents are Inuit, whose ancestors migrated from Alaska through Northern Canada, gradually settling across the island by the 13th century. Nowadays the population is largely concentrated on the southwest coast of the island while the rest of the island is sparsely populated. Greenland is divided into five municipalities — Sermersooq, Kujalleq, Qeqertalik, Qeqqata, and Avannaata. It has two unincorporated areas — the Northeast Greenland National Park and the Thule Air Base. The last one, even if under Danish control, is administered by the United States Air Force.

In 1812 he first suggested creation of a Royal Society of Liverpool which eventually came to fruition in 1821.

Liverpool Royal Institution

The Liverpool Royal Institution was a learned society set up in 1814 for "the Promotion of Literature, Science and the Arts". William Corrie, William Rathbone IV, Thomas Stewart Traill and William Roscoe were among the founders. It was sometimes called the Royal Society of Liverpool.

When John James Audubon arrived in Liverpool in July 1826 Traill helped him to find a publisher for his The Birds of America. Audubon named the Traill's flycatcher after him, which at one time referred to a species which included both the willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii) and the alder flycatcher (Empidonax alnorum).

John James Audubon American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter

John James Audubon was an American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. He was notable for his extensive studies documenting all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats. His major work, a color-plate book entitled The Birds of America (1827–1839), is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed. Audubon identified 25 new species.

Traills flycatcher Wikimedia disambiguation page

Traill's flycatcher was a supposed species of tyrant flycatcher in the genus Empidonax, called Empidonax traillii. It was named by John James Audubon after his good British friend Thomas Stewart Traill.

Willow flycatcher species of bird

The willow flycatcher is a small insect-eating, neotropical migrant bird of the tyrant flycatcher family. There are four subspecies of the willow flycatcher currently recognized, all of which breed in North America. Empidonax flycatchers are almost impossible to tell apart in the field so biologists use their songs to distinguish between them. The binomial commemorates the Scottish zoologist Thomas Stewart Traill.

Always interested in railways, in October 1829 he and his family attended the famous Rainhill trials and saw first hand Stephenson's "Rocket" win the competition. During this trial he, his wife and two daughters were invited as passengers in a rival engine, the "Novelty" built by Braithwaite and Ericsson, one of the runners-up in the trials. This makes them possibly the first passengers on a steam train. [2]

University of Edinburgh and the Encyclopædia Britannica

Traill returned to the University of Edinburgh in 1832 as a professor of medical jurisprudence, and served in this role until death, also serving as President of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh 1852 to 1854. [3]

In 1847 he replaced Macvey Napier as main Editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica (1852–61) and was creator of its 8th edition: works concluding a year before his death.

He was a keen (but unsuccessful) supporter of women attending the university.

He was President of the Royal Scottish Society of the Arts 1843-44. [5]

In 1840 he was living at 10 Albyn Place in Edinburgh's Moray Estate close to Charlotte Square. [6]

He died at his final home, 29 Rutland Square [7] in Edinburgh's West End on 30 July 1862, and was interred at St Cuthbert's cemetery. [3] The grave contains members of both the Omond family and Traill family and stands against an outer eastern wall of the southern section, under the shadows of Edinburgh Castle.


In July 1811 he was married to Christian Robertson (1788-1842), daughter of Rev Harry Robertson of Kincardine, Fife [8] and the widow of James Watson of Crantit, an Orkney factor for Lord Dundas. She had married James Watson aged around 12 and had five children by him by age 23 when he died. [9] She had a further five children with Traill. [2]

Their daughter Mary Eliza Traill married Robert Omond. Their children included Robert Traill Omond.

Thomas appears to have been cousin or second cousin to Rev Robert Traill (and shows a strong family resemblance).


Artistic Recognition

His portrait by Alexander Mosses is held by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh but rarely displayed. [10]

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  1. Traill, William (1883). A Genealogical Account of the Traills of Orkney, with a Pedigree Table ... Kirkwall, Orkney: J. Calder. pp. xiv. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  2. 1 2 3
  3. 1 2 3 Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783-2002: Biographical Index (PDF). II. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN   978-0-902198-84-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  4. 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.
  5. "RSSA: History: Past Presidents". Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  6. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1840
  7. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1862
  8. Ewings Annals of the Free Church