This unornamented bust of Dr Thomson is made of plaster and was gifted to the College by Dr Burt in 1863. This bust is possibly a copy of the portrait bust of Thomson made by the sculptor Richard Westmacott the Younger (1799-1872). However, the College’s bust also displays considerable similarities with the marble bust of Thomson by Sir John Steell which is in the University of Edinburgh’s collection.

Thomson can also be found depicted in the roundel portraits in the Great Hall.

John Thomson (1765 - 1846)

Thomson began his medical training as a doctor’s apprentice in 1785, before studying at the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Whilst in Edinburgh, he became assistant apothecary at the Royal Infirmary (1790), and president of the Medical Society from 1791-1792. In 1792 he left his position at the infirmary due to ill health and moved to London to study at John Hunter’s school of medicine.

He returned to Edinburgh in 1893 and became a fellow of the College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. In 1800, when he was nominated one of the six surgeons to the Royal Infirmary, he began to teach surgery as well as the nature and treatment of diseases and injuries familiar to military surgeons. In 1804 Thomson was appointed to the College of Surgeon’s new professorship of surgery, a position he held until 1821.  In 1806 he was also appointed professor of military surgery at the University of Edinburgh. In 1808 he obtained his MD from the University and King’s College of Aberdeen. Two years later, due to criticism of his surgery by another surgeon, John Bell, he resigned from his position at the Royal Infirmary. He subsequently travelled across Europe examining different methods utilised in hospitals. In 1815 he was again in Edinburgh and made licentiate of the RCPE; also in that year he was instrumental in the foundation of the Edinburgh New Town Dispensary. In 1832 he was appointed professor of general pathology at the university and from 1834- 1836 he was president of the College.

Thomson was also a prolific writer and his major works included: Elements of Chemistry and Natural History (3 vols.; 1798 – 1800) which ran to five editions and  Lectures on Inflammation: a View of the General Doctrines of Medical Surgery (1813) which was translated in German (1820) and French (1827) as well as being issued in America (1813 and 1817).