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John Cleland

Born  1835
Died  1925

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Scottish physician, born June 15, 1835, Porth; died March 5, 1925, Chatham.

Biography of John Cleland

John Cleland was the son of a physician. He studied in Edinburgh, then in France and Germany. After receiving his doctorate in Edinburgh in 1856, he worked as assistant at the anatomical institute in Edinburgh and as senior demonstrator with the anatomist Allen Thomsen (1809-1884) in Glasgow.

He came to Galway as professor of anatomy and physiology as well as clinical teacher at Queen’s College in 1863, and in 1877 succeeded his teacher, Thomsen, as Regius professor of anatomy in Glasgow. He became emeritus in 1909 and died in 1925. An enthusiastic evolutionist and admirer of Darwin, his particular field of interest was biological questions.

In 1889 Cleland published Memoirs and Memoranda in the Anatomy with his assistants John Yule Mackay (1860-1930) and Bruce Young. One of the treatises in this book, on birds with supernumerary legs, he demonstrated «that additional limbs attached to the sacral region in man and other vertebrates do not consist of an appended foetus but of the additional halves of two embryos, while the full grown individual to which they are attached has its pelvic limbs formed from each of the two original embryos.”

In 1883 he described the basilar impression syndrome, now known as the Arnold-Chiari malformation, ten years prior to Arnold.

Cleland’s number of publications exceeds 100 by far.


  • On the structure and mechanism of the gubernaculum testis.
    Prize-winning thesis, Edinburgh, 1856.
  • Animal physiology. London and Glasgow, 1874.
  • A directory for the dissection of the human body. London, 1877; 4th edition, 1898.
  • Evolution, expression, and sensation, cell, life and pathology.
    Glasgow, 1881.
  • Experiment on brute animals. London, 1883.
  • Memoirs and Memoranda in the anatomy.
    With John Yule Mackay and Bruce Young. London, 1888.
  • Human anatomy, general and descriptive, for the use of students.
    With J. Y. Mackay. Glasgow, 1896.

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