SIMPSON, Sir James Young, 1st baronet (1811–1870), physician. ALS re Peruvian antiquities. 1850s

SIMPSON, Sir James Young, 1st baronet (1811–1870), physician. ALS re Peruvian antiquities. 1850s

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SIMPSON, Sir James Young, first baronet (1811–1870), physician & obstetrician. Autograph letter signed to Mr Keith Johnstone, March Hall, 2 sides, 8vo, no date [1850s], 52 Queen’s St, Edinburgh, thanking him for an invitation which he was unable to accept as he was dining with the Belgian Consul, and informing him that a Dr Smith from Lima living at 2 Manor Place “has bought over a large collection of Peruvian Antiquities and Pictures which perhaps would interest Mr Pentland, as if I remember rightly some of his first Minerological investigations were made in that part of the world”.

Sir James Young Simpson was an important Scottish figure in the history of medicine famous for his discovery of the anaesthetic properties of chloroform and for its successful general medical use. He also had a great interest in archaeological and historical subjects, and in 1861 was elected professor of antiquities by the Royal Scottish Academy. His correspondent was the geographer and cartographer (Alexander) Keith Johnston  (1804–1871), geographer at Edinburgh in ordinary to the queen, fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and honorary doctor of the University of Edinburgh.

In suggesting to Johnston that ‘Mr Pentland’ might be interested in Dr Smith’s collection of Peruvian antiquities, Johnston as a geographer was doubtless well acquainted with the naturalist and explorer Joseph Barclay Pentland (1797–1873). Pentland undertook extensive explorations in Peru and Bolivia, where he collected many plant, animal and fossil specimens as well as archaeological remains. He helped Mary Somerville in the preparation for publication of maps of Peru and Bolivia for her Physical Geography (1848),  An undescribed nickel–iron mineral he found from Craigmure, Argyll, came to be named ‘pentlandite’ after him.

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