Clan Brown and Brunonian Medicine
Scotland has a notable history in the medical sciences, from James Young Simpson – the discoverer of chloroform anaesthesia – to Arthur Conan Doyle who worked as a Doctor before finding fame as a writer. Scotland’s place in the pantheon of medical history is assured. Yet none of Scotland’s medics can hold a candle to today’s subject. Clan Brown can boast one of the most fantastic contributors to medical science that Scotland has ever produced.
Doctor John Brown
John Brown was born and raised in Berwickshire. Close to our heart as this is where our HQ is located! It seems that John was something of a child prodigy. In time, John’s parents became aware of their child’s gifts and sent him to the Grammar School in Duns. After dazzling Duns with his genius, Brown went to Edinburgh University to study Divinity. This didn’t hold his attention for long as he quickly left theology behind in favour of medicine. Brown made his name with the Brunonian System of Medicine.
The Brunonian System of Medicine
As a member of Clan Brown, you can brag that your surname has been used for a whole school of medical thought. There you’ll be, probably at a dinner party, possibly at a gallery opening, with a cocktail in one hand and a canape in the other. You will be saying “Of course, the 19th century Brunonian system of medicine was named after a Brown – What’s your family got, eh?” Maybe, before you get too ahead of yourself, you should learn a little about this system.
John Brown’s theory states that all illnesses are caused by either, over or under-excitement. To treat a disease caused by over-excitement, the patient must purge the excess excitement either by vomiting or blood-letting. An under-excited patient is treated with stimulants in order to perk him up again. Brown favoured prescribing alcohol or opium as stimulants. It seems that Brown liked opium and alcohol so much that he kept both close at hand during his lectures.
The System Breaks Down for Brown
Unfortunately, John Brown’s ideas never really caught on. The romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a fan of Brown. So too was the writer Thomas De Quincey (Confessions of an Opium-Eater). However, despite a brief craze for his ideas in Germany in the 19th century, Brunonian medicine is very much a thing of the past.
Brown never saw his ideas catch on in his lifetime. His insatiable appetite for alcohol, opium and laudanum caught up with him in London where he consequently died at the age of 53. John Brown’s noteworthy descendants include Ford Madox Brown, the famous painter and his grandson Ford Madox Ford, the notable author.
What do you Browns think? Will you be subscribing to Doctor John Brown’s ideas? Do you agree with Brown on the subject of medicines that ‘highest of all, as far as experiments have yet thrown light upon the subject, is opium’? No? Me neither as it goes… I go for a quick walk if I get too excited which is good advice for us all to follow. Mind you, if you do go for a walk, make sure you wrap up!