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St Andrew's Day

St Andrews Day, the 30th of November is the national holiday of Scotland. So today we are going to mention some notable Scots who have altered the world of anatomy and medicine.

Alexander Fleming was born in 1881 in East Ayrshire and was a Scottish physician and microbiologist. He is best known for discovering the world’s first antibiotic, penicillin. In 1928, Fleming noticed that a culture plate of staphylococcus aureus bacteria had become contaminated with a fungus. This mould was identified as penicillium notatum. He noticed that this mould had inhibited the growth of the bacteria. This mould prevented the growth of the bacteria because it produced an antibiotic, penicillin. His discovery is described as the single greatest victory ever achieved over disease. For this discovery, he was awarded the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 1945. Penicillin is still one of the most widely used antibiotics today.

Joseph Lister was an English surgeon and scientist born in 1827 but moved to Scotland for medical training. Scottish universities taught medicine and surgery from a scientific viewpoint, much different to that of down south in England where surgery could still be practised by barbers. Lister was the founding father of antiseptic medicine and a pioneer in preventative medicine. His method of antiseptic is no longer used but his principle that bacteria must never enter a wound remains a basis in medicine today. Following his introduction of the antiseptic technique, over four years, mortality fell from 45% to 15% in the ward he was working on. Following this, he saw a universal acceptance of his approach.

William Hunter from East Kilbride was born in 1718 and was an anatomist and physician. He was a leading teacher of anatomy and an obstetrician. Hunter was a fantastic anatomy lecturer and made dissecting cadavers a popular method of learning anatomy. He also became a very successful obstetrician and made this a notable field of medicine as it was previously disregarded.

Dame Sue Black was born in 1961 in Inverness and is a famous forensic anthropologist and anatomist. She gained an interest in anatomy from a part-time job at a butcher’s and marvelled at the muscles she was chopping up. She has greatly developed the field of forensic anthropology and has been on many tours identifying victims of mass tragedies. She also developed a technique in vein pattern analysis, by being able to identify a person by photographs of their hand or arm. She is renowned in her field and continues to educate the future of anatomy.

As you can see, the Scots have a lot we can be thankful for, so let’s celebrate them this St Andrews Day.


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