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The principal sources of information on John Abernethy are found in the "Memoirs of John Abernethy" by George Macilwain, one of his pupils. Although the book is factually accurate, it is somewhat one-sided in the interpretation of the illusive character of Abernethy, probably because the author had not achieved any degree of intimacy with his teacher or his family. The present biography is based on a thorough study of all available material and sheds new light on the controversial personality of Abernethy, as well as on his contemporaries and their relationships with one another.
Abernethy was born in 1764 and lived during the reigns of Charles III and Charles IV. The period was one of intense activity in science and medicine, and young Abernethy took advantage of the facilities offered by the most prominent teachers in London. They were Maclaurin, Sir William Blizard at the London Hospital, Percivall Pott at
John Abernethy: A Biography.. JAMA. 1953;152(11):1080. doi:10.1001/jama.1953.03690110094038