Alexander Monro primus (1697-1767)
Alexander was born in London on the 8th of September 1697, which was also the same year that the Incorporation of Surgeons successfully petitioned the Town Council to build a Surgeons Hall. He was well educated from an early age in various languages, philosophy and mathematics. He was apprenticed to his father from the age of fifteen, where he assisted in dissections, and took on the more difficult cases in order to better his education. Alexander spent the next eight years attending many lectures and demonstrations in Edinburgh and abroad, and was taught by many well regarded people in all fields relating to medicine. While visiting Paris in 1718, his father presented some of his dissections to members of the Royal College of Physicians and the Incorporation of Surgeons, who were greatly impressed with his work. It was this action that perhaps germinated John’s grand plan. When he returned home in 1719, his father petitioned the Incorporation for him to be allowed to sit the examinations to become a member of the society. He passed the examinations easily, and was made Professor of Anatomy on the 29th of January 1720. His academic story is told throughout this exhibition.
On 3 January 1725, Alexander married Isabella Macdonald. They had three sons and five daughters (four girls dying in infancy). John, the eldest, was born on the 5th of November 1725. He inherited the Auchinbowie house from his father. Donald was born in 1728, and Alexander secundus was born in 1733. The latter two were educated in medicine: Donald became an army surgeon; Alexander followed his father as an academic and clinical lecturer. Margaret was the only surviving daughter. To assist her education, Alexander wrote Essay on Female Conduct, which she had to transcribe (twice) as a way of learning the content. The Medical Library holds a facsimile of her copy of this work.
Primus was an unusually industrious, enthusiastic and conscientious teacher, constantly seeking self improvement. He appeared outwardly modest, but could also be stern and unbending. When roused, he was also a formidable antagonist, with a vitriolic turn of phrase, and a keen eye for controversy. He died on the 10th of July 1767 of rectal cancer, and was buried at Greyfriars Churchyard in Edinburgh.