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William Cunningham Blest: Wikis


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Irish Doctor, president of the first Medical Society of Chile, creator of the first School of Medicine in Chile, politician and father of the novelist Alberto Blest Gana.

Born in Sligo, Ireland in 1800, son of Anglo-Irish clergymn and author, Albert Blest and Anna Mayben. As a member of the middle class all his children received a good education and entered into honourable professions. Studied in Trinity College Dublin, where he obtained a degree in medicine; not happy with this, he carried on studying at the Edinburgh University in the Jacob IV Academy, where he got his Doctor's degree in Medicine on 21 March 1821. He then moved to London, where he practiced as a Doctor until he decided to emigrate due to the oversupply of doctors in London at the time. After been convinced by his brother Andrew Blest (who created the first brewery in Chile) about the good prospect for a doctor in the young country, he arrives in Valparaíso, Chile in 1823.

As an educated, polite, young immigrant coming from Ireland, with a profession in good demand, he was able to impress the local ladies and on 21 March 1827, he marries María de la Luz Gana Darrigrandi, a girl from a very wealthy family and sister in law to Manuel Blanco Encalada, which without a doubt helped him in setting up practice independently in Chile.

After three years residence in his adoptive country, Blest wrote in 1826 the essay "Observations about the present state of Medicine in Chile and a proposal for its improvement", where he was highly critical with the sanitary conditions of Chile, its poor level of education and the lack of interest in learning the medical science properly. The repercussions of this report was immediate and in the same 1826, the government canceled the Protomedicato and creates the Chilean Medical Society, made up of all practitioners in Santiago de Chile, putting Dr. Blest as its chairman.

On the 4 of April 1827, Freire, who was back in government, eliminates the Medical Society and replaces it with the General Medical Inspectorate, naming Blest as its Chief Inspector. After many other changes to the Medical Body of the young nation, Blest being at the head of all of them, the infamous Protomedicario was reinstated in 1830, this time with William Blest as its chairman, permanently. From that moment on, Dr. Guillermo (William) Blest, presided over any medical act in Chile, approving licences to practice, inspecting medical facilities and pharmacies. On his hands were left all responsibilities and authorities with everything related with Medicine, which afforded him with many enemies, such as that of the Spanish Dr. José Passaman.

His constant speeches about the importance of studies in the fields of medicine, put him at the head of the doctors when he published the "Essay about the most common causes of illnesses suffered in Chile". He then was assigned to create and inaugurate the School of Medicine in 1833 in The National Institute, which operated from the Saint John of God's Hospital. Blest served as its Director for 20 years.

As an important member of the Chilean society of the time, William Blest, after been granted the Chilean nationality, was elected as a M.P. in 1832 for Rancagua, seat he occupied until 1834, but without major interventions. He was also a faithful supporter of the Public Beneficence, being in its council for many years, helping to create Hospitals, Cemeteries, Orphan's Asylums and the like. He was later also elected as a Senator.

Blest died in retirement in his estate in San Bernardo, on the 3 February 1884, leaving to his adoptive Chile a School of Medicine and an illustrious family on many accounts. Proof of that are his sons Alberto Blest Gana, one of the finest Chilean novelist and Joaquín Blest Gana, politician, lawyer, historian, and government minister.



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