|Description||Home was born in Edinburgh on 9 November 1719. After his early schooling he was apprenticed to Mr Rattray, an eminent Edinburgh surgeon. He studied at the new medical faculty of the University of Edinburgh, where he was an early member of the influential Royal Medical Society. However, before graduating he became a surgeon with the 6th Inniskilling regiment of dragoons and served with them in Flanders during the War of the Austrian Succession. He used the winter campaign breaks to attend Leiden medical school.|
After the war Home settled in Edinburgh, where he finally graduated MD from the university in 1750. He put his army experience to good use by incorporating medical data on the remittent fevers (malaria) collected while tending troops at Worms into his inaugural dissertation, De febre remittente. In 1751 Home became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and started to build up his medical practice. In 1758 an Edinburgh measles epidemic prompted him to experiment with the use of a measles vaccine. He also published important observations on diphtheria in the first clinical description of croup, 'An Inquiry into the Nature, Cause and Cure of the Croup' (1765).
In 1756 Home turned his attention to chemistry and in Experiments on Bleaching recommended that bleachers should use dilute sulphuric acid instead of sour milk. In 1757, in his book The Principles of Agriculture and Vegetation, he applied chemistry to farming, describing the growth of plants potted in soils treated with compounds like magnesium sulphate and potassium nitrate.
In 1758 he published the first edition of his scientific history of disease, 'Principia medicinae', which increased his reputation-especially in Europe and America, where the publication was widely used as a textbook. In 1768 Home obtained the first professorship of materia medica in the University of Edinburgh (and was succeeded by his son, James Home in 1798). To meet the student need for a syllabus of drugs Home published in 1770 Methodus materia medicae based on his lecture notes. During this period Edinburgh University had an official relationship with the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (established in 1756) and Home was one of the professors responsible for patient care and bedside teaching in its teaching ward. Clinical observation was always one of his interests and he promoted the methodology for history taking and physical examination formulated by the medical faculty. The publication of a course of clinical lectures in 1780, Clinical Experiments Histories and Dissections, rounded off his publishing career.
Home was one of his majesty's physicians in Scotland and he followed William Cullen as president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh from 1775 to 1777. He died on 15 February 1813 in his ninety-fourth year.
[Source: Dictionary of National Biography]
Contents: Lectures on materia medica, c1768; casebooks, 1780-1789; cashbook, 1767-1811; correspondence on bleaching, 1756