Dr James Gregory (1753-1821) was the son of a professor of medicine in Edinburgh University where he too became a professor of medicine at the age of twenty three. Nepotism was very prevalent in academic appointments at that period[i]. James Gregory was described as:
….a curious and excellent man, a great physician, a great lecturer, a great Latin scholar, and a great talker; vigorous and generous: large of stature and with a strikingly powerful countenance. The popularity due to these qualities was increased by his professional controversies, and the diverting publications by which he used to maintain and enliven them. The controversies were rather too numerous; but they never were for any selfish end, and he was never entirely wrong. Still, a disposition towards personal attack was his besetting sin.[ii]
Gregory’s delight in provoking his colleagues resulted in him being suspended from the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh of which he had been President from 1798-1801. Another dispute resulted in him attacking the professor of midwifery, James Hamilton Jr. with a cane for which he was fined £100 with costs. He declared that he would willingly repeat the offense for twice that sum. Gregory is probably best remembered for ‘Gregory’s Powder’, a mixture of rhubarb, magnesium and ginger which remained a popular remedy for stomach upsets well into the twentieth century.
[i] James Gregory was one of the remarkable family of Gregorys which produced 16 professors of medicine and mathematics in five generations.
[ii] Cockburn Memorials p97