James Burn Russell
'Glasgow's Doctor'
James_Burn_Russell._Photograph_by_Annan,

Above, James Burn Russell

Image credit: The Wellcome Collection

James Burn Russell graduated from the University of Glasgow, BA in 1858, MDCM in 1862 and LLD in 1885. He is considered one of the top pioneers in public health, reforming the way infectious disease was managed and prevented in Glasgow, and battling slum landlords and town councillors to improve the living conditions of the city’s poorest inhabitants.

He was born in Glasgow in 1837 to David Russell, a printer, and Agnes Bryson. The family moved to Rutherglen the following year, but his mother died when he was only two years old. His father went bankrupt by 1851, and moved to Australia to work for the Sydney Morning Herald in 1853, leaving James and his sister Agnes in the care of their grandparents, at Auburn Cottage, Rutherglen. His grandfather was James Russell, Glasgow’s first steamboat harbour master.

James Burn Russell received his early education at the High School of Glasgow. After completing his Arts degree at the University of Glasgow in 1858, he acted as assistant to his former teacher Lord Kelvin. Russell assisted Kelvin with laying the first Atlantic cable. He then moved from electrical engineering to the study of medicine, graduating from the University of Glasgow, MD CM, in 1862.

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Above, Auburn Cottage, Rutherglen, home of James Burn Russell. 

Source: The University of Glasgow Story. Additional information by Cynthia Wardle

Further reading:

Project Muse - review of the book ‘Glasgow's Doctor: James Burn Russell, 1837-1904’ by Edna Robertson, published by Tuckwell Press Ltd. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Vol. 74, No. 1, Johns Hopkins University Press.

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The Herald, 17/12/1998 – review of Edna Robertson’s book, details as above.

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Rutherglen Reformer article 17/10/2016 about JBR’s great granddaughter visiting his home in Rutherglen

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© Rutherglen Heritage Society

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