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23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

Dr Charles Findlay
(24 Apr 1804 – 30 Nov 1891)

The narrative that follows is reproduced from Alexander (Sandy) Waddell's invaluable summary in his biographical document FINDLAY WHO'S WHO.

Who's Who entry for Charles Findlay

The first point to note is that I have seen reference to him with the physician's prefix Dr, whereas a surgeon is takes equal pride in being simply Mr. This distinction was explained to me long ago as being based on the Hippocratic Oath, which abjured physicians from spilling blood, whereas surgery had developed as a secondary skill of barbers (who originally of course shaved beards rather than cutting hair), whose skill with the "cut-throat razor" could also be put to profitable use in performing minor operations. In competition with such a lowly surgeon (originally chirurgeon) was the sawbones, defined as a physician who had specialised in surgery.

The origins of the word surgery from the Latin chirurgia and Greek kheirourgia, from kheirourgos = working or doing by hand (kheir = hand, ergon = work) gives another clue as to the distinction: surgery could be dashed hard work, gruelling emotionally as well as physically, whereas physicking was seen as a much more leisurely affair.

Well, some of this is certainly true, but the stuff about the Hippocratic Oath and not spilling blood is just baloney. One more reason never to believe anything your aunts tell you. The real truth of the distinction is much more complex and peculiarly British – it derives from profitable merchandising of qualifications by university medical schools, restrictive practices by medical professional institutions, and (of course) legislation by Parliament. Ironically, since the introduction of anaesthesia in the 19th century, surgeons have become the popular superstars – a "cut above" ordinary medicos!

Click here to read an excellent explanation of the tortuous but true back-history of this invidious distinction.

As detailed in the Generation Table, the younger son James of Charles Findlay and Elizabeth Scott was swept overboard from a ship and drowned, but their elder son Charles married one Barbara Bowie, and thereby began a most prolific posterity right down to the present day, which, for reasons already given beneath that table, I just haven't attempted to give any further details of, though they may well be available via the internet.