|Description||Laycock was born on 12 August 1812 at Wetherby, near York. Educated at the Methodist Woodhouse Grove School until the age of fifteen, he was then apprenticed to John and William Spence, surgeons at Bedale in the North Riding of Yorkshire. In 1833 Laycock attended the medical school of London University (later University College), and after a short period of study at Paris, he qualified MRCS on 7 May 1835. In 1839 he graduated MD at Göttingen, after which he became a general practitioner in York. In 1842 he was appointed a licentiate extra urbem of the Royal College of Physicians, and became physician to the York Dispensary in the same year. Subsequently he became secretary to the local Health of Towns Association (1843), and a lecturer at York medical school (1846-55).|
Laycock became professor of the practice of physic at the University of Edinburgh in 1855. Already an ex officio FRCP (Edinburgh) by virtue of his professorship, he became a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1856. In 1857 he commenced annual extramural classes in medical psychology and mental disease. In 1869 he was appointed physician-in-ordinary to the queen in Scotland and president of the Medico-Psychological Association.
Laycock's success as a professorial consulting physician was said to be unremarkable, notwithstanding his teaching practice at the clinical wards of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Nevertheless, he produced over 250 publications, including 'A Treatise on the Nervous Diseases of Women' (1841). This gained him a European reputation which he consolidated by a paper, 'On the reflex function of the brain', originally presented in 1844 to the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Laycock argued on analogical grounds that the concept of reflex function, formerly confined to the spinal column, should be extended to the cerebral hemispheres. This conceptual leap, and the methodology of psycho-physical parallelism which grew out of it, helped to lay the foundations of modern physiological psychology and neuropsychiatry.
Laycock also made other historically important contributions to medicine. In public health he reported on the sanitary condition of York for the Health of Towns Commission. He also strove for a better understanding of mental disease by applying ideas of the evolution and regression of the higher nervous centres to explain symptoms of insanity. While at Edinburgh, he published Mind and Brain, or, The Correlations of Consciousness and Organisation (1860). In it he explored the correlation between consciousness and biological organisation from the viewpoint of a physiological psychology which attempted to take into account the evolution of nervous centres in animals and man. Laycock died at his house, 13 Walker Street, Edinburgh, on 21 September 1876, as a result of pulmonary consumption.
[Source: Dictionary of National Biography]
Contents: Lectures from Laycock's original series, 1846-1876; additional lectures and writing, c1845-1875; manuscripts for published and unpublished books, 1850s-c1875; papers relating to the dispute between Laycock and Dr William B Carpenter, 1844-1876; original packaging