Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton (1844-1916)

Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton (1844-1916) was a Scottish physician



  • Born on March 14, 1844 in Roxburgh, Scotland
  • 1866 – MB, University of Edinburgh
  • 1867 – house physician at Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh
  • 1868 – published thesis on digitalis and awarded MD; studied pharmacology and physiological chemistry in Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam and Leipzig with Carl Ludwig (1816–1895)
  • 1870 – lecturer in materia medica and pharmacology at Middlesex Hospital
  • 1871 – lecturer in materia medica and pharmacology at St Bartholomew’s Hospital; development of experimental pharmacology
  • 1874 – elected Fellow of Royal Society
  • 1900 – knighted;
  • 1908 – baronetcy
  • Died

There is a memorial in Bowden in the Scottish Borders, designed by Sir Robert Lorimer (1864-1929)

Medical Eponyms
Nitrates in heart disease (1867)

1844 Antoine-Jérôme Balard (1802-1876) a French chemist known for the discovery of bromine, originally synthesised amyl nitrite by directly heating purified alcohol with nitric acid

1859 Amyl nitrite was first used in the treatment of angina pectoris by Frederick Guthrie.

One of the most prominent of its properties is the singular effect of its vapour, when inhaled, upon the action of the heart. If a piece of bibulous paper, moistened with two drops of the nitrite of amyl, be held to the nostrils, through which the breath is exclusively drawn, after the lapse of about fifty seconds, a sudden throbbing of the arteries of the neck is felt, immediately followed by a flushing of the neck, temples and forehead, and an acceleration in the action of the heart.

It is probable that this body may find an application in medicine as a resuscitative, as in cases of suffocation, drowning or protracted fainting.

Guthrie 1859

1867 Brunton

Brandy, ether, chloroform, ammonia, and other stimulants have hitherto been chiefly relied upon for the relief of angina pectoris; but the alleviation which they produce is but slight, and the duration of the attack is but little affected by them.

In now publishing a statement of the results which I have obtained in the treatment of angina pectoris by nitrite of amyl, I have to observe that the cases in which I employed this remarkable.

Brunton 1867

1885, the pioneering physiologist Henry Newell Martin, FRS (1848-1896) emphasised the significance of the steps that had led to the introduction of amyl nitrite into clinical practice

Interesting as is the history of strychnine and chloral, still more so is that of amyl nitrite, a drug not yet officinal, but now being born, if I may use such a metaphor. The chemist has discovered it ; the physiologist and pharmacologist have experimented with it ; and now the practicing physician is testing it clinically. Whatever his ultimate decision be as to its greater or less value, its story serves well to illustrate how a new remedy is discovered, and how many sciences cooperate to add to the physician’s armament.

Henry Newell Martin 1885

Major Publications



Nitrates in cardiovascular disease

Eponymous terms


the person behind the name

Dr Vhairi McAtear LITFL Author

MBChB (Hons), BMedSci, University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Currently working in Emergency Medicine in Perth, Australia. Lover of the outdoors and all things running, cycling and hiking. Varied interests including acute medicine and clinical oncology.

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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