William Smellie (medic)

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William Smellie, engraving by Charles Grignion
Collection of anatomical tables for midwives
Use of forceps designed by William Smellie
Gravestone with epitaph of the smellies in Saint Kentigern

William Smellie (born February 5, 1697 in Lanark (Scotland) , † March 5, 1763 ibid) was a Scottish doctor and obstetrician. He was the first to place obstetrics on a scientific basis and to teach it as a discipline separate from operational teaching. He advocated the moderate use of forceps and established safe rules for this. He examined the functional anatomy of the pelvis of the parturient and was one of the first to establish a relationship between the individual pelvic zones and the child's head.

Live and act

William Smellie was the only son of the Scottish petty nobleman Archibald Smellie (1663 / 64-1735) and his wife Sara Kennedy (1657-1727). He received his education at the Lanark Grammar School . He then began an apprenticeship in 1714 in William Inglis' pharmacy. This was followed by two years as a surgeon's mate , a military rank in the Royal Navy for a medically trained assistant to a ship's doctor . From 1720, without a medical license, he worked surgically and pharmaceutically in his practice in Lanark as a village doctor.

In 1724 he married Eupham Borland (1696 / 97–1769), with whom he lived until his death. She survived him and died on June 27, 1769. They left no offspring.

In 1733 Smellie entered the medical-surgical department at the University of Glasgow . Obstetrics became his particular interest, and Smellie kept a careful record of his cases. In 1739 he traveled to Paris to attend a series of lectures on obstetrics, such as with Jean Grégoire († 1679), a Paris surgeon who also dealt with obstetrics. From here he moved back to London, where he founded a pharmacy and opened his own practice. He bought a house in Pall Mall and began practicing in the poorer areas of the city. At the same time he took on the then medical student William Hunter as a subtenant in his house . The latter would later become known as the obstetrician and founder of modern anatomy.

Unlike in England, in Scotland obstetrics was part of medical training. Scottish doctors, such as Smellie, dominated early British obstetrics. From 1739 Smellie lectured and gave practical demonstrations in London for midwives and medical students, including William Hunter . He used lifelike models to illustrate his techniques. In 1741 he began to give lectures and demonstrations to professional midwives and medical students for a fee of three guineas for the entire course.

Smellie was among the first obstetricians to determine the pelvic diameter directly through a manual vaginal exam . He checked the position of the fetus by palpating the bone sutures ( sutures and fontanelles ) which showed him the progress of the birth. Rickets was a widespread deficiency disease in his time, so the assessment of the rachitic pelvis was of great importance. Unlike William Hunter, he did not hesitate to recommend a caesarean section .

He paid a lot of attention to the development of the forceps ; the Smellie's forceps were ultimately modified Levret's forceps. His developments were similar to the latter in that they also had a curvature of the skull and pelvis, but the spoons were longer. A caesarean section was only an option for him if a child could not be delivered properly with the forceps. Unfortunately, the spoons were wrapped in leather strips, in the pre-antiseptic era the consequences of this source of infection were not yet sufficiently understood.

In 1745 Smellie received a doctorate in medicine from the University of Glasgow. In 1752 he published a Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery ; The second (1754) and third (1764) volumes of this complete work were based on 531 case histories , which he compiled with his colleague Tobias Smollett (1721–1771).

In 1759 he wanted to retire for the rest of his life in order to devote himself entirely to literary work. So he returned to Lanark, where he lived on a small estate in Kingsmuir (in Angus ). He died on his estate ( Smyllum ) and was buried in the cemetery of the church of Saint Kentigern in Lanark. His grave with an epitaph for Smellie and his wife still exists to this day.

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Web links

Commons : William Smellie (obstetrician)  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Biographical data in English
  2. Biographical data in English
  3. G. BOYD: William Smellie. In: The Ulster medical journal. Volume 27, Number 1, May 1958, pp. 29-36, PMID 13569671 , PMC 2480433 (free full text).
  4. ^ A b P. M. Dunn: Dr William Smellie (1697-1763), the master of British midwifery. In: Archives of Disease in Childhood. Fetal and neonatal edition. Volume 72, Number 1, January 1995, pp. F77-F78, PMID 7743291 , PMC 2528415 (free full text).
  5. Villey, R .; Brunet, F .; Valette, G; et al .: Histoire de la Médicine, de la Pharmacie, de l'Art Dentaire Vétérinaire. Albin Michel-Laffont-Tchou, Paris (1978)
  6. P. Harper: Tobias Smollett and the Practice of Medicine. In: The Yale journal of biology and medicine. Volume 2, Number 6, July 1930, pp. 408-416, PMID 21433464 , PMC 2606287 (free full text).