CodeDS/UK/36
Person NameMonro; Alexander (1733-1817); Professor; secundus; anatomist
Dates1733-1817
TitleProfessor
Epithetsecundus; anatomist
HistoryMonro, secundus was the third son of Alexander Monro primus (1697-1767), professor of medicine and anatomy at Edinburgh University, and was born in Edinburgh on 20 May 1733.

Professorships at Edinburgh were formally filled by the town council, but throughout the eighteenth century they were commonly regarded as the property of their holders to be passed on to their sons. From an early age young Alexander was designated as his father's successor as professor of medicine, and Monro primus took seriously the task of educating his son to fill his position with distinction. Monro secundus's name first appears on his father's anatomy class list in 1744. The following year he matriculated in the faculty of arts at Edinburgh University, where he heard lectures in Latin, Greek, philosophy, mathematics, physics, and history. In 1750 he began attending medical lectures. In 1753, still a student, he took over the teaching of his father's summer anatomy class, and at Monro primus's petition he was named joint professor of medicine and anatomy on 10 June 1754. He graduated MD in 1755 with a thesis 'De testibus et semine in variis animalibus'. He then went on an anatomical grand tour, studying anatomy in London with William Hunter and in Berlin with Johann Friedrick Meckel. He matriculated on 17 September 1757 at Leiden University and became friends with the noted anatomist Albinus. His tour was interrupted in the same year when he had to return to Edinburgh to assist his father in the anatomy course; his father's recurring illness brought Monro secundus home to take up the duties of the professorship in January 1758. He became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1759.

In the fifty years he taught at Edinburgh University Monro secundus became the most influential anatomy professor in the English speaking world, lecturing daily from 1 to 3 p.m. during the six-month winter session. He spent every morning preparing for his class anatomical specimens from his own extensive collection, and his lectures were praised for their clarity and strength of argument. Not even his extensive medical practice interfered with the zealous discharge of his professorial obligations. He was equally assiduous in defending what he regarded as his professorial prerogatives. He succeeded in 1777 in having the title of his own professorship formally changed to the chair of medicine, anatomy, and surgery, preventing the establishment of a course of surgery in Edinburgh for thirty years.

The anatomical research which secured Monro's posthumous medical reputation was his description of the communication between the lateral ventricles of the brain, now known as the foramen of Monro. He first noted it in a paper read before the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh in 1764, as it appeared unusually enlarged in the post-mortem dissection of a case of hydrocephalus. He described it in detail in Observations on the Structure and Functions of the Nervous System (1783, German edn, Leipzig, 1787).

Monro secundus had an attack of apoplexy in 1813, and he died on 2 October 1817.

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