Francis Caird, Regius Professor of Clinical Surgery in the University of Edinburgh and President of the College, had served as an undergraduate as a dresser on Lord Lister’s wards. He went on to become an early and lifelong disciple and teacher of Listerian antisepsis. At a time when abdominal surgery was being pioneered in Germany and Austria, he regularly visited European centres and successfully pioneered modern gastrointestinal surgery in Scotland.
Francis Mitchell Caird was born in Edinburgh and educated at The Royal High School where he received a medal for botany. Botany was to remain a lifelong interest and on leaving school he became apprentice to a seed merchant. He went to become assistant in the Botany Department of the University and from there became a medical undergraduate. During this time he served as a dresser and clerk in the wards of Lord Lister and this experience was to have a major influence on his future career and life’s work. He became an early disciple of Listerian antisepsis and was to practice and promote this throughout his working life.
After a resident post in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary under Mr. John Chiene, (cross ref) he was elected to the Fellowship of the College in 1860. Thereafter in what was to become the first of a series of regular visits to continental centres he went to Strasbourg where he studied under von Recklinghausen. After demonstrating in anatomy for three years at Minto House and in the extramural medical school he became surgeon to The Royal Infirmary. In these positions he developed a reputation as a hugely popular teacher and a surgeon seen to be concerned for his patients, not by any means a universal quality in Victorian Britain.
On the death of Professor Annandale in 1908 he was appointed to the Regius Chair of Clinical Surgery in Edinburgh. His use of rigorous aseptic technique and visits to continental surgeons like Mikulicz in Breslow and Billroth in Vienna allowed him to successfully pioneer intestinal surgery in Scotland. He was one of the first exponents of major gastrointestinal resections in Scotland, his pioneering work extending throughout the gastrointestinal tract. He described, for example, techniques of excision of the tongue for carcinoma, closure of perforated gastric and duodenal ulcers, excision of the small bowel for tuberculous stricture and excision of the rectum for carcinoma, the latter performed under spinal anaesthesia.
His gift for drawing and painting was used to great effect in his teaching and in his Surgical Handbook which he wrote in collaboration with C. W. Cathcart (cross reference). This was to enjoy several editions and become a standard text.
He was awarded the Liston Victoria Jubilee Prize by the College in 1901 and elected President in 1912. His knowledge of and enthusiasm for botany stayed with him throughout his life and he became President of the Botanical Society.
Edinburgh Medical Journal; 1926; v33; p743-7
Lancet; 1926; v2; p1033
British Medical Journal; 1926; v2; p911-2
Edinburgh Medical Journal; 1928; v35; p46
Transactions of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Edinburgh; 1926-27; v41, p20