The remarkable medical lineage of the Monro family: Contributions of Alexander primus, secundus, and tertius: Historical vignette

Osmond C. Wu, Sunil Manjila, Nima Malakooti, Alan R. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Among the families that have influenced the development of modern medicine into what it is today, the Monro lineage stands as one of the most notable. Alexander Monro primus (1697-1767) was the first of 3 generations with the same name, a dynasty that spanned 126 years occupying the Chair of Anatomy one after the other at the University of Edinburgh. After becoming Professor of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh in 1719, Monro primus played a principal role in the establishment of the University of Edinburgh School of Medicine and the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. In 1726, he published The Anatomy of the Humane Bones, of which 8 editions were printed during his lifetime. His son, Alexander Monro secundus (1733-1817), arguably the most notable of the 3 men, succeeded him as Professor of Anatomy. A highly regarded lecturer and anatomist, Monro secundus studied under many great physicians, including William Hunter and Johann Friedrich Meckel the Elder, and was also teacher to other well-known figures at the time, such as Joseph Black and Thomas Trotter. His most notable contributions include his work with the lymphatic system, the interventricular foramen (of Monro), and the Monro-Kellie doctrine. Alexander Monro tertius (1773-1859), the last of the dynasty, also succeeded his father as Professor of Anatomy. His work included insights into abdominal aortic aneurysms and the anatomy of the genitourinary system. The prominent association of the Monro family with the University of Edinburgh and the effects of a tenured professorship under the concept of "Ad vitam aut culpam" over successive generations are also described. To the best of the authors' knowledge, this historical review of the Monro family is among the few published in neurosurgical literature. A vivid historical overview of the medical contributions of the most famous and influential dynasty of physicians in Edinburgh at that time is provided, with relevant excerpts from original publications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1337-1346
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Alexander Monro
  • Foramen of Monro
  • Functional neurosurgery
  • Interventricular foramen
  • Monro-Kellie doctrine
  • Neuroanatomy
  • University of Edinburgh

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'The remarkable medical lineage of the Monro family: Contributions of Alexander primus, secundus, and tertius: Historical vignette'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this