James Simpson, one of many great and internationally famous Scotsmen, was born into the usual 19th century small Scottish family, he was one of seven children! His father had moved from a bakers job into accounting for the local bank, which with so many choldren was a good place to be. James emerged into the small town of Bathgate in what is now West Lothian. The town had been around since the time of King Malcolm IV (that's the 1100's to you) but while it had an occasional moment of fame nothing much could be said of it in 1811 when James appeared. It did have a distillery (that produced 85,000 gallons a year by centuries end) and built a decent large academy, so someone had money as well as the Scottish emphasis on education. Our James however had been so bright that he had long since left the town and entered Edinburgh University at 14 years of age (the same age at which I departed school!). Our hero began to practice medicine at 20 years of age and was so bright that he became professor of midwifery at 28! Here he introduced many innovations, including using midwifes in hospitals, and reorganisation of hospital procedures but became much more famous for his discovery of Chloroform as an anesthetic.
Sir Humphrey Davey, he of the miners lamp, had begun to use Nitrous Oxide in 1799 but the use did cause problems for patients lungs. Always willing to experiment at a time of much needed innovation, James and his pal doctors experimented on themselves with a variety of substances to aid patients. In 1847 they found Chloroform was a knock out. With Doctors Duncan and Keith and some say with their wives also, he experimented in the front room of his home at Queen Street, Edinburgh, the home of many famous men (ahem). Each held a cloth soaked in the stuff over their mouths. When they awoke, the next morning, lying on the floor , they realised they had something here! It was however, as always, opposed by many and not until Queen Victoria used such while giving birth to Prince Leopold that it became accepted. Many women breathed a sigh of relief!
Somewhere along the line James added 'Young' to his name. Possibly this referred to his age while professor, maybe it was a cause for humour among his colleagues, no reason is given. His humour was well known, he once sat a freed slave beside a slave owner at one of his dinners, and possibly he took the name 'Young' as a laugh! In 1866 his work and fame war rewarded by the nation, he became 1st Baronet of Strathavon, possibly after the location of his country house, and we all need one of those! The house I mean, not the Baronetcy.
Simpson died aged 58 in 1870, and while his worldwide fame was such an offer of burial in Westminster Abbey was made he like all good Scots, was laid to rest in Warriston Cemetery in Edinburgh, Scotland's capital! A memorial bust was placed in the Abbey while on the day of his funeral a holiday was declared. 100,000 people lined the streets! What a man!