CodeDS/UK/100
Person NameMacLagan; Andrew Douglas (1785-1865); Sir
Dates1785-1865
TitleSir
HistoryMacLagan obtained his M.D. in 1833 and he was licentiate (1831) and later fellow (1833) of the Royal College of Surgeons. After a period studying on the continent he returned to Edinburgh where he was appointed assistant surgeon to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Like his father, David MacLagan, Douglas MacLagan held, at different times, both the presidency of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons; he was also president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1890 – 1895). Both the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow bestowed the degree of LLD on him and he was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1886.

MacLagan was particularly interested in therapeutics, analytical chemistry and toxicology and eventually abandoned surgery to become an extra-mural lecturer in material medica. He was later appointed professor of medical jurisprudence and public health in 1862, holding this position for 34 years. His teaching on public hygiene and public health administration were particularly important in light of the 1875 Public Health Act. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the department for skin diseases in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

MacLagan also made a number of appearances as an expert witness in court, including as a member of the defence in the notorious case of Madeleine Smith of Glasgow who was charged with poisoning her lover. Indeed McLagan became a leading authority on the analysis of poisons and published important works on the subject including Contributions to Toxicology, Cases of Poisoning (1849).

Outside of his medical interests MacLagan also cultivated an interest in poetry, and published Lays by the Poet Laureate of the New Town Dispensary. He was also involved in early Scottish photography with his work being displayed by the Edinburgh Society of Arts as early as 1843.

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