(17 November 1719 – 15 February 1813)
College Role: 


Francis Home was born on 9 November 1719 in Edinburgh, son of James Home, an advocate. After receiving his early education, Home was apprenticed to Mr Rattray, an Edinburgh surgeon. He then enrolled at Edinburgh University at the new medical faculty where he was an early member of the influential Royal Medical Society. Before he graduated however, Home served as a surgeon in Flanders during the War of the Austrian Succession. During the campaign Home drew up regimental orders for the prevention of fevers, which stated that the soldiers should not drink water unless it had been boiled. Home took advantage of the winter breaks during the campaign to study medicine at Leiden, which was still flourishing as a medical school twelve years after Boerhaave’s death.

In 1750, after the war ended, Home finally obtained his MD from Edinburgh, where he settled. Over the next twenty years his interests varied widely and he published extensively. By 1751, Home was a fellow at the College of Physicians of Edinburgh and was developing his private practice. A measles epidemic broke out in Edinburgh in 1758 and Home began experimenting with the use of a measles vaccine.

His 1756 essay, Experiments on Bleaching, won Home a gold medal and was used for the improvement of manufactures in Britain. In 1757, Home’s research benefitted agriculture as he applied chemistry to farming. This was some of the earliest work on the chemical principles underlying plant nutrition. Home published the first edition of his scientific history of disease, Principia medicinae in 1758. This work elevated Home’s reputation and was widely used as a textbook, going through several editions, until the nineteenth century.

In 1768 Home obtained the first professorship of materia medica in the University of Edinburgh. The subject had previously been studied as a subset of botany. To meet the student need for a syllabus of drugs Home published in 1770 Methodus materia medicae based on his lecture notes. During this period Edinburgh University had an official relationship with the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (established in 1756) and Home was one of the professors responsible for patient care and bedside teaching in its teaching ward.

Home died on 15 February 1813 and was buried in Berwickshire.  

Notable Achievements

In 1768 Home obtained the first professorship of materia medica in the University of Edinburgh.

Home was president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh from 1775 to 1777.

Home is known for making the first attempt to vaccinate against measles.

In 1783, he was one of the founders of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Home was physician to the king in Scotland.

Key Publications

  • Experiments on Bleaching (1756)
  • The Principles of Agriculture and Vegetation (1757)
  • Principia medicinae (1758)
  • Medical Facts and Experiments (1759)
  • An Inquiry into the Nature, Cause and Cure of the Croup (1765)
  • Methodus materia medicae (1770)
  • Clinical Experiments Histories and Dissections (1780)