James Towers (1757-1820)

by Colin Campbell

James Towers was born in 1757 on a farm near Dunblane which was then in Perthshire (now in Stirlingshire)

Although he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh he never graduated MD. He gained surgical experience at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and after a period in London, he came to Glasgow and joined the staff of Glasgow Royal Infirmary. He joined the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 1787.

In 1792 he set up a “Lying-in Hospital” (a Maternity Hospital) in the City. It is not known where this was, but it was the first in the City and continued for some years financially supported by the University and later by the City Council. It is not known when it closed. The emphasis in this Hospital was on teaching.

Despite not having taken an MD, he was appointed the first Professor of Midwifery at Glasgow University in 1815. In 1817, the University conferred on him and others the controversial degree of CM (Chirurgiae Magister), the first ever issued by a British University. The introduction of this degree was to lead to years of confrontation with the FPSG who claimed exclusive rights to issue licenses for the practice of surgery.

James married Helen McIlhose in 1790.

He died on 24 July 1820, aged 63 at his home at 56 Ingram Street, Glasgow. He was buried in the Ramshorn Churchyard and is commemorated in the Necropolis.

James Towers Monument

James Towers Monument

Back to top