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John Cheyne

Born  1777
Died  1836

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Scottish physician, born February 3, 1777, Leith near Edinburgh; died January 31, 1836, Buckinghamshire, England.

Biography of John Cheyne

John Cheyne was the son of a surgeon, and already when 13 years old he assisted his father in dressing and bleeding patients. He entered the medical study at Edinburgh University at the age of 15 and graduated doctor of medicine in 1795, at 18. He then joined the Army as an assistant surgeon with an artillery corps and was at the battle of Vinegar Hill where the British beat the Irish on June 21, 1798. After four years og service he returned to practice with his father in Leith in 1799.

In 1809 he went to Dublin, where in 1811 he became physician at the Meath Hospital, and soon thereafter professor of medicine with the duty of teaching war medicine. In 1815 he received the appointment of physician to House of Industry and in 1820 became Physician General to the forces in Ireland.

Whilst in Scotland he studied pathology and dissection with Charles Bell and wrote his first book – Essays of Diseases of Children – in 1801. He wrote one of the important early monographs on laryngology, Pathology of the Membrane of the Larynx and Bronchia, in 1809. He first described acute hydrocephalus, in 1808, and in 1809 contributed on croup.

Ill health, as well as several accidents and adversities caused his semi-retirement and return to England, where he settled on a country estate in Buckinghamshire in 1831 and died 1836.

John Cheyne was perhaps the founder of Irish medicine.

We thank C. Michaelides for correcting an error.


  • Essays on the Diseases of Children; with Cases and Dissections.
  • Essay 1. Of cynanche trachealis or croup. Edinburgh, 1801. 2nd edition, 1809, under the title:
    The pathology of the membrane of the larynx and bronchia,
  • Essay 2. On the bowel complaints etc. Edinburgh, 1803.
  • Essay 3. On hydrocephalus acutus, or dropsy in the brain..
    Edinburgh, Mundell, Doig & Stevensen, 1808.
  • Cases of apoplexy and lethargy; etc. London, 1812.
  • A Second Essay on Hydrocephalus Acutus etc. Dublin, 1815; 2nd edition, 1819; German translation by Adolph Wilhelm Müller (1784-1811), Bremen, 1809.
  • The Pathology of the Membranes of the Larynx and Bronchia.
    Edinburgh, Mundell, Doig & Stevenson, 1809.
    This important book deals mainly with the lesions of the croup.
  • Cases of Apoplexy and Lethargy: With Observations Upon the Comatose Diseases. London, Thomas Underwood, 1812.
    Cheyne believed that cerebral anaemia might be the cause of apoplexy, and described pathological cases of cerebral infarction and of cerebral haemorrhage. The work contains the first illustration of subarachnoid haemorrhage.
  • An Account of the Rise, Progress and Decline of the Fever Lately Epidemical in Ireland.
    With Francis Barker (1773-1858). 2 volumes. Dublin, 1821.
  • A Letter to George Renney, M. D. Director-General . . . . On the Feigned Diseases of Soldiers. Dublin, 1826.
  • Essays on Partial Derangement of the Mind in Supposed Connexion with Religion . . . . With a Portrait and Autobiographical Sketch of the Author. Published posthumously in Dublin, 1843.

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