Robert Jamieson

7 January 1818 - 17 November 1895

Robert Jamieson graduated MA from Marischal College in 1835. and MD, LRCS (Edinburgh 1839). He was physician and later Superintendent (1852-1884) of the Royal Lunatic Asylum  (now Royal Cornhill Hospital) in Aberdeen. He made far-reaching reforms, greatly improving the facilities and welfare of patients. His most important, and revolutionary contribution was the introduction of productive work by those who could do so. This became standard practice throughout mental hospitals and remains so today. He, with another doctor from Glasgow, was credited with introducing the “non-restraint” system of treatment and made innovations with the theme of mentally ill patients being treated as human beings and of mind and body being interactive (3,4). He supervised the building of much of what was to become the Royal Cornhill Hospital.

Jamieson gave a regular series of lectures on Mental Diseases, which were published in the London Medical Gazette for 1850 (3). He was appointed as Lecturer on Practice of Medicine and Medical Jurisprudence in King’s College in 1852, one of the first doctors to be recognised by the University. He recommended the creation of a chair in the subject, although the Department of Mental Health was not created until 1946. He was an examiner for degrees at King’s College.

Robert Jamieson was highly regarded by his peers across the UK. “...a man of handsome presence, marked intellectual power, independent character, and genuine kindliness of heart”. “…his contemporaries recognise him as a gentleman whose counsel and encouragement were to be highly appreciated.”(1)

He was also an accomplished art critic, well known to most of the Scottish painters of his day including Sir George Reid, whose portrait of Jamieson hangs in the halls of the Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society. Only two of his seven children survived to teenage. (5 died of scarlatina in 1855). He was uncle to William George Jamieson, Jeweller. He is buried in St Nicolas churchyard in Aberdeen.


President of the Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society 1856/7
President of the North of Scotland Medical Association.
Member of the Medico-Psychological Association from 1859.

1. Obituary Robert Jamieson, M.A., M.D. Aberdeen. (1896). Journal of Mental Science, 42(176), 238-239
2. The psychiatrist, the historian and The Christian Watt Papers. Beveridge A, Watson F. (2006) History of Psychiatry, 17(2): 205–221
3. London Medical Gazette (1850) 46 pp265-271
4. Journal of Psychological Medicine 1858 pp335- 348

image portrait by Sir George Reid ©2007 Aberdeen MedChi

Biography prepared from the nomination made by Prof E Russell to the University of Aberdeen 525 Alumni project.