Christison, a leading toxicologist, was the son of Alexander Christison, Professor of Humanity at the University of Edinburgh. After graduating with MD from Edinburgh in 1819, he studied in London and Paris and in 1822 was appointed Professor of Medical Jurisprudence at Edinburgh. In 1832 he transferred to the Chair of Materia Medica which he occupied for 45 years. He is well known for his work on the chemistry of alkaloids and, among his discoveries, was the isolation and physiological action of coniine, the active principle of hemlock. 'His researches on snake poisons and immunisation against them are noteworthy for they were carried out at a time when immunisation was little understood.' Christison's interests covered botany, chemistry, mineralogy, archaeology and pharmacology. His fitness was legendary and it is reported that, at the age of 50, he could run from the University to the top of Arthur's Seat in 22 minutes.
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The Royal Society of Edinburgh
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