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January 11, 1964


JAMA. 1964;187(2):146-147. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03060150070024

The rejection of superstition and the mystery of delivery, the introduction of anatomically designed instruments as standard items in obstetrical practice, and the acceptance of the physician as the trained accoucheur are the critical contributions of William Smellie, the foremost obstetrician of the 18th century in England. William was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, the birthplace of the Hunters and Cullen, at a time when the country was impoverished but slowly recovering from bitter religious strife. His grammar school days, in which he concentrated upon the study of Latin, French, and mathematics, must have been happy ones since he bequeathed to the school library at Lanark his nonmedical books and pamphlets, "nine English Floots with the thick quarto gilt Music Book" and two hundred pounds of sterling for repairing the building.1 Following an apprenticeship in Glasgow, Smellie began the practice of medicine at Lanark. About 1733, he became a member

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