Record

Ref NoDEP/BAA
TitleCollection of Sir Andrew Balfour
DescriptionBalfour was born at Balfour Castle, Denmiln, Fife, Scotland on 18 January 1630, the fifth and youngest son in the large family of Sir Michael Balfour and his wife, Jane or Joanna (d. 1640), daughter of Sir James Durham of Pitkerro. Andrew Balfour was brought up at Balfour Castle, the family seat. After an early education at the parish school of Abdie he studied philosophy under Thomas Gleig at St Andrews University and graduated MA about 1650. Encouraged by his brother James to be a keen collector of literary, antiquarian, and natural history objects, and by then an aspiring medical student, he probably visited Oxford, England and London, England before travelling to France in 1657, primarily to see the gardens of the duc d'Orléans at Blois. He then lived for several years in Paris, France undertaking the most advanced medical education available in Europe; he went on to Montpellier, France and then graduated MD at Caen on 20 September 1661.

Arriving afterwards in London, Balfour became acquainted with many famous physicians of the day, including Harvey, Glisson, Charleton, and Wedderburn, the king's physician, and was presented to King Charles II. The king recognized Balfour as an exceptionally cultivated man and acquired for him a position as tutor to the wayward young earl of Rochester, John Wilmot, whom he accompanied on a grand tour from 1661 to 1664.

In 1667 Balfour went to live in St Andrews, Scotland where he practised as a physician, collected local plants, experimented in science and medicine, and made anatomical dissections. He moved in 1670 to Edinburgh, Scotland where he built up another medical practice. At this point he is reputed to have experimented on blood transfusions in dogs. In Edinburgh, Scotland he started a small botanical garden in which he grew a number of exotic species, enhanced by Murray's collection and by seeds from European botanists and from Morison, now at Oxford, England. Balfour appointed James Sutherland as first curator, and bore the cost of the salary until he persuaded the university to take the garden over as an adjunct to the medical school. In 1675 a larger plot next to Trinity Church and Hospital (now underneath Waverley Station) was acquired, to which Balfour transferred many of his plants.

Balfour played a prominent role in Edinburgh's learned society, and opened his remarkable private museum, gallery, and library to scholars. He was also active in establishing professorial chairs in Edinburgh University (making sure to place his own candidate, James Gregory, in mathematics) and in founding the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. He became its third president in 1685. He improved the infirmary and arranged publication of the first Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia (1685), in which he wrote the parts on materia medica. He was created baronet (at an unknown date) and physician-in-ordinary to Charles II. Balfour's old age was uncomfortable with gout and other disorders, and he died on 9 or 10 January 1694, suddenly while walking in the street.
[Source: Dictionary of National Biography]

Contents: 'Catalog of Plants and Herbs whiche I have seen in Edinburgh', 1657
Date1657
TermPost mortem
Extent1 volume
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