|The Simpson Bicentenary 2011|
In June, representatives from across the medical spectrum came together in Edinburgh to celebrate the life and work of James Young Simpson
Seventh June this year was the 200th birthday of James Simpson, one of the most celebrated figures in the history of Edinburgh Medicine, best remembered for his introduction of chloroform for analgesia and anaesthesia in obstetrics and surgery.
Seven bodies which can each claim some ownership of the Simpson legacy came together to celebrate this significant anniversary: the two Edinburgh Royal Colleges, the Royal Colleges of Anaesthetists, Midwives, and Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the History of Anaesthesia Society and the University of Edinburgh, whose chair of Midwifery and Diseases of Women he occupied with great distinction from his appointment in 1840 at age 28 until his death 30 years later.
The event began on Thursday 2 June in RCPE in a joint meeting with RCOG on Medical Disorders in Pregnancy which concluded with the RCOG Simpson Oration delivered by Sir Ian Wilmut (cloner of 'Dolly'). The next two days saw parallel conferences dealing with the history of anaesthesia and Simpson's many non-medical interests as a 'Lad o' Pairts'. Those attending were joined by delegates at a tripartite meeting of RCA, RCPE and RCSEd at lunchtime on Saturday for an address by Dr Morrice McRae who has recently published an outstanding new biography of Simpson. That evening was the occasion for the RCSEd Simpson Memorial Lecture.
The charitable focus of the bicentenary is the terrible problem of obstetric fistulae in Africa and the lecture was splendidly delivered by Professor Gordon Williams, Director of the Addis Ababa Fistula hospital in Ethiopia, which was established by Dr Catherine Hamlin and her late husband. This was followed by a splendid Bicentenary Banquet during which the RCSEd Farquharson Award was presented to Dr Hamlin.
The celebrations culminated the following morning in a service in St Giles Cathedral to which members of the Simpson family and all the participating organisations formed a colourful procession complete with College and University regalia. During the service, Dr Hamlin delivered a moving address from the pulpit and a wreath was laid at the Memorial Tablet commemorating the seventh son of the Bathgate baker who made such an impact on the world of medicine.