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Biographical entry McLachlan, John (1856 - 1931)

MRCS 24 July 1885; FRCS 12 December 1889; MB CM Edinburgh 1883; BSc public health 1885; MD 1888; LSA 1885; BA Oxford 1900; MA 1902; BCL 1903.

31 December 1856
Huntly, Aberdeenshire
28 February 1931


John McLachlan was born at Huntly in Aberdeenshire on 31 December 1856. He was of humble origin, his father being unknown and his mother in domestic service, and his name does not appear in the register of births at the Registrar General's record in Edinburgh. He received his early education at the Huntly elementary school, and at the age of eight began to work on a farm, afterwards acting as a blacksmith and a postman. In this way he earned sufficient money to pay for the teaching courses at the School of Medicine in the University of Edinburgh where he graduated MB, CM, and MD. He then acted for a time as demonstrator of anatomy at the Minto House School under Dr Johnson Symington, and wrote an excellent book on Surgical Anatomy, which was published in 1883 and appeared as a third edition in two volumes in 1889. He came to London in 1889 to study for the FRCS examination and in the following year declared himself to be a homoeopath. Two years later he moved to Oxford and took the practice of Dr Arthur Guinness, physician to the Oxford Homoeopathic Dispensary, in which post he succeeded him and filled it worthily for the rest of his life, living first at 38 Beaumont Street and after¬wards at 3 Keble Road. He was for many years editor of the Homoeo-pathic Review.

Time appears to have hung somewhat heavily on his hands after settling in Oxford, where there were but few patients who believed in the teaching of Hahnemann, and he matriculated as a commoner from Queen's College in Michaelmas term 1896, gained a second class in chemistry in the School of Natural Science in 1900 and a third class at the examination for the Bachelor of Civil Law in 1903. He married twice, his second wife dying fifteen years before him and leaving him with one daughter. He died suddenly, whilst driving his car near Besselsleigh, on Saturday, 28 February 1931, and was buried as a baptist at Wolvercote cemetery. McLachlan was a remarkable example of a man who made his own way, in spite of many obstacles, by sheer force of character. As a student he earned the money to pay his fees by manual labour during the vacations; he taught and wrote well, and if he had not adopted homoeopathy, at a time when it was ostracized by the rest of the medical profession, he would probably have become well known as a surgeon.


The student's handbook of surgical anatomy. Edinburgh, 1883.
The anatomy of surgery. Ibid 1887.
Applied anatomy: surgical, medical, and operative. 3rd edition, 2 vols. Ibid 1889; 4th edition, revised and largely rewritten by A A Scott Skirving, 2 vols. Ibid 1908.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Oxford Times, 6 March 1931, p 19b; information given by the Registrar General, Edinburgh and by Fred Colegrove; eulogy, with two portraits, by H E W Phillips, BSc, MA, privately printed].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England