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Alexander Monro tertius (born November 5, 1773, Edinburgh; died March 10, 1859) followed his father and grandfather in becoming professor of anatomy at Edinburgh University. He is known as "tertius" due to the names of his two predecessors as professor of anatomy at the University also being named Alexander Monro: these were his grandfather (known as Alexander Monro primus) and father (known as Alexander Monro secundus). Alexander's great-grandfather was also in the medical profession, a surgeon called John Munro.

In the early 19th century Edinburgh University still had the reputation of being the best medical school in the United Kingdom but had declined significantly from its heyday in the Enlightenment of the 18th century. Two thirds of the professors were appointed by the Tory City Council on the basis of their party list subject to approval by the Kirk, with little regard for ability. In some cases families treated the university chairs as hereditary, and Alexander Monro III exemplified the mediocrity this could produce. His manner was described as "unimpassioned indifference" and lectures were known to degenerate into riots.

When Charles Darwin came to Edinburgh University in 1825 he was disgusted by Monro arriving at lectures still bloody from the dissecting room, writing home that "I dislike him & his lectures so much that I cannot speak with decency about them. He is so dirty in person & actions." Many students turned to competing private schools in Surgeon's Square instead, with Charles' brother Erasmus going to John Lizars, but Charles found the sight of surgery so upsetting that he stopped trying and turned his attention to natural history. The most popular of these private schools was started in 1826 by the flamboyant professor Robert Knox who taught in the new continental manner demonstrating anatomy on corpses. Unfortunately this led to bodies being provided by Burke and Hare from November 1827.

External links


  • Darwin, Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Michael Joseph, the Penguin Group, London 1991 ISBN 0-7181-3430-3


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