A collection of potted biographies, images, letters and other Old Stuff.
Dr Patrick Blair MD, FRS - Biography
Patrick Blair was born - possibly - around 1675 at Lethendy, just north of Perth, Scotland. Or he was born in Dundee - and maybe as early as 1666: nothing is certain. His years of study were spent in a variety of places, which included Flanders, where he was known to have worked between 1694 and 1697. He married Elizabeth Whyte in Dundee in April 1702, from which marriage a son John was born (4th June 1703). At least three further children were born - Henry, Elizabeth and Isabell. In 1712 the family moved to the small town of Coupar Angus; in the same year Patrick Blair received a doctorate from King's College Aberdeen, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in London.
In 1713, he travelled to London and Oxford, to meet with fellow-scientists; and in 1715 he travelled to Preston in the company of an army of Jacobites; and then to London as a prisoner-of-war. Saved from the gallows in 1716, he stayed on in London, then retired to the town of Boston in Lincolnshire, where he died in 1728. For further biographical details, consult the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, or the work by Alex Stevenson cited below.
Very little is known about the life of Gilbert Orum. He was probably born around 1670. From the Parish Registers, we have discovered the few remaining facts about him. He married Barbra Maxwell in Dundee, on 22nd July 1693. The new Mrs Orum was the widow of Thomas Fairweather, whom she had married on 13th February 1691. Barbra must have died shortly after her wedding to Mr Orum, since Gilbert then married Hellen Webster on 1st November 1693.
From the latter marriage, five children were born: Thomas, born 26th July 1694; Agnes, born 28th March 1697; Hendrie, 17th June 1700; another Thomas - the first-born we must suppose having died - born on 10th February 1702; and finally Robert, 18th April 1708.
Gilbert had two brothers: Hendrie, who married a woman named Margaret Stratoune; and John, who was the first husband of Margaret Stratoune - they had one son, John. Hendrie and Margaret had a further eleven children: William, Alexander, Hendrie, Margaret, George, Lillias, David, Isobell, another Hendrie, Eupham, and finally another Margaret.
I cannot guarantee that all of the above is correct. If anyone has any further information on this family of Orums, or of any preceding or succeeding generations, I would be delighted to learn about them...
The letters to the Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser
A lively correspondence was recorded in the Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser, in September 1825. To view (slightly off-colour and heavily vandalised) copies of these letters, click on the two links below.
I am grateful to Carol Smith of the Dundee City Libraries Service for this material.
Skeletons of elephants in North Britain.
For those wishing to see real 'live' skeletons of Elephants in Scotland, I would direct you to
The National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street, Edinburgh
The museum attached to the Medical School of Edinburgh University - in Bristo Street - contains two slightly battered, but otherwise serviceable, elephants.
The Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, a wonderful place, and happily furnished with a couple of elephants.
Images of one sort and another
The following images are copies of Gilbert Orum's published engravings of the elephant, its skeleton, and bones and gristly bits. Click on any of them to view in lugubrious close-up.
The elephant in the flesh...
The elephant 'unplugged'...
...and some bobs...
Those seeking further guidance on how to dissect an Elephant, or any other mammal, or requiring more information on the life of Dr Patrick Blair, would do well to consult the following works:
Mr Patrick Blair, Osteographia Elephantina, or a Full and Exact Description of all the Bones of an Elephant etc. Published in the 'Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society', Volume 27. London 1710.
Patrick Blair, Osteographia Elephantina etc. Published by G.Strahan, London 1713. (An off-print from the Transactions above)
Dr Patrick Blair, Observations in Physic, Anatomy, Surgery, and Botanicks. London 1718.
Dr Patrick Blair, A Description of the Organ of Hearing in the Elephant etc. Published in the 'Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society', Volume 30. London 1719.
Dr Patrick Blair, Botanical Essays. London 1720.
Dr Patrick Blair, Pharmaco-Botanologia, an Alphabetical and Classical Dissertation on all the British Indigenous and Garden Plants of the New London Dispensatory, London 1723-1728 (in eight volumes). (The third volume available is on-line - here...)
Please note that honourable mention of the Dundee Elephant is made in James Robertson's entertaining and provocative novel Joseph Knight. While I am indebted to James for many things, I state here unequivocally that I only came across this passage in his book several weeks after completing the first draft of Elephantina. Honest.
A variety of alternative titles were proposed by the author for Elephantina - 'Blair's Elephant', 'Osteographia Elephantina Taodunensis', 'The Hall of Rarities'. However, in order to catch the drifting attention of the shelf-browsing public, a short and snappy title was preferred...