John Glaister (the elder)

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John Glaister (1856-1932)

John Glaister (* 9. March 1856 in Lanark , † December 18, 1932) was a Scottish pathologist , Regius Professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of Glasgow and a pioneer of forensic science .


John Glaister was born in Lanark in 1856 as the eldest son of the four children of John Glaister and Marion Hamilton Weir. The parents made a living from owning some land and selling household goods and alcoholic beverages. After attending Hugh Brown's School, Westport, and Lanark Grammar School, at the age of 15, at the request of his parents, he began a law degree . After his parents died, one of his uncles bought the company and became the boy's guardian. Glaister dropped out with the consent of his uncle and enrolled in Glasgow in 1873 to study medicine. In 1877 he achieved the Scottish triple qualifications , but was not allowed to take the exam for the Batchelor of Medicine , as he was still a few months before his 21st birthday. In 1879 he finally passed the examination for the Batchelor of Medicine and received his doctorate in medicine in 1885.

After a short stint as assistant to a general practitioner in Carluke, he opened a general practitioner practice in the affluent Townhead district of Glasgow in 1878 . In 1881 he was appointed as a lecturer at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary Medical School , succeeding William Macewen , and appointed as a police surgeon ( Police Divisional Surgeon, St. Rollox ). From 1887 he became a lecturer in public health . Two years later, when the Royal School was converted to St. Mungo's College, he became Professor of Forensic Medicine and Public Health. In 1889 he received a diploma in public health from the University of Cambridge . In 1898 Glaister was appointed Regius Professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of Glasgow as the successor to Adolphus Simpson . In the same year he was elected a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh .

Glaister introduced undergraduate and postgraduate courses in public health and opened modern laboratories for both public health and forensic medicine. Glaister was the first professor to witness the prosecution in court cases. He achieved fame for his appearances as an expert in various legal proceedings, including in the case of Oscar Slater, who was wrongly convicted in 1909 . The author of the popular Perry Mason books, Erle Stanley Gardner , dedicated one of his books to Glaister ( The Case of the Horrified Heirs ).

When a professorship for public health was introduced in Glasgow in 1923, Glaister remained as Regius Professor of forensic medicine. In his last year as a professor, Glaister retired in 1932.

With his wife, Mary Scott Clarke, Glaister had four daughters and two sons, the second of whom, John Glaister, succeeded him as Regius Professor. Glaisster died with his wife on December 18, 1932, both at the age of 76.


In 1931 Glaister was awarded an honorary doctorate (LLD) and the John Glaister Prize awarded by the University of Glasgow was named after him.

John Glaister Prize

The John Glaister Prize was founded in 1958 by Jean Glaister Martin in memory of her father, John Glaister (the elder). The prize is awarded annually on the recommendation of the Regius Professor of Forensic Medicine to the best student of the year in Medical Jurisprudence.


Glaister's best-known work is A Textbook of Medical Jurisprudence, Toxicology and Public Health , first published in 1902 and published in thirteen new editions under various titles, later worked out by his son. In addition, Glaister published over forty papers and reports on medical jurisprudence, hygiene and the history of forensic medicine.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m The University of Glasgow Story, John Glaister ; accessed on January 26, 2015.
  2. a b c d e f g h Lanark Museum & The Royal Burgh of Lanark Museum Trust, Famous Lanarkians, John Glaister (1856-1932), Forensic Scientist ; accessed on January 26, 2015.
  3. a b c d e f g Brenda M. White; John Glaister (1856-1932) ; in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  4. a b c d e f g h Forensic Medicine Archives Project of the University of Glasgow; John Glaister (1856-1932) ; accessed on January 26, 2015.
  5. a b World Changing Notable People, John Glaister ; accessed on January 26, 2015.
  6. ^ A b The University of Glasgow Story, John Glaister Prize ; accessed on January 26, 2015.
  7. ^ Entry on John Glaister (1856-1932) on worldcat ; accessed on January 26, 2015.