Lyon Playfair (1818-1898) and compulsory vaccination

A. Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lyon Playfair was born in India but brought up by his uncle in St Andrews. He studied medicine in Glasgow and Edinburgh but never practised as a doctor. Instead he worked for the chemist Thomas Graham in London and then studied for a PhD with Liebig in Germany. While serving on a government commission he became very interested in public health, particularly the control of infectious diseases. In 1883, while a member of parliament, he made a passionate speech in support of a government bill in favour of compulsory vaccination against smallpox. He was violently attacked for his speech in a pamphlet by William White, an adherent of the teachings of the Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg. Playfair died in 1898 and is buried in St Andrews.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-46
Number of pages4
JournalScottish Medical Journal
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006


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