Biography of William Russell
William Russell was born in Douglas on the Isle of Man where his father was stationed at the time, being an officer of fisheries. Both sides of his family came from the Highland area of Scotland. He came to Edinburgh to enter medical school and graduated in 1876.
After graduation Russell became house physician and pathologist at the General Hospital in Wolverhampton, later clinical tutor and pathologist at Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, where remained for the rest of his life. At the Royal Infirmary he worked as lecturer in pathology, and in 1913 he was the first to be appointed to Moncrieff-Arnott chair of clinical medicine, a position he retained until he retired in 1919.
His wife was a brilliant undergraduate at Edinburgh, but was forced to take her doctorate elsewhere, with the consequence that Russell became a champion for equal opportunity, and dean of the Women’s School.
He was the first editor of the Scottish Medical and Surgical Journal and was one of the most highly regarded clinical teachers of his day at a time when the Edinburgh Medical School possessed its greatest array of clinicians, such as Byrom Bramwell. As might be expected, he was a keen supporter of the physicians’ cause and stated that the diagnosis of appendicitis required “the skill palpation to which the physician is trained, and of which the surgeon may be capable”. He was said to be a tall, handsome, bearded gentleman with a rather clerical manner which combined with his dogmatism made him well remembered by his students. He had a gift for succinct verbal expression and was a widely read and excellent conversationalist.
Russell’s early research included investigations of the cancer cell and disorders of the circulation.
Russell was a collaborator in the Encyclopaedia of Medicine and Gibson’s Text-book of medicine.