Portrait of Alexander Monro Primus by Allan Ramsay

Alexander Monro Primus (1697 – 1767) was a distinguished surgeon, scholar and founder of Edinburgh Medical School.


Oil on canvas Dimensions: 72 × 62cm
Acquired in:
Lyon and Turnbull

He was born in London of Scots parentage and studied in Edinburgh, London, Paris and Leiden. In 1719, he became a lecturer on anatomy at the Surgeons’ Company (now the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh) and was admitted as fellow number 173. 

Monro lectured in the old Surgeons’ Hall until 1725, when he was granted a theatre in the university buildings for his teaching. In 1726, he published his Anatomy of the Human Bones, a seminal study, which appeared in eight editions in his lifetime. The reputation of the book, which was translated into most European languages, did much to increase the fame of the new school of medicine in Edinburgh. 

This handsome portrait of Monro was painted by Allan Ramsay in the 1750s. Ramsay was a renowned Scottish artist, who studied in London and Rome, and became famous for his royal portraits. The Monro portrait is recorded as having been on loan to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1905, and remained on display there until it was sold by the Monro family in 2006. 

The painting now returns to the college as an important record of one of its most celebrated members. 


By family descent; purchased by the current owner in 2006

Venue details

Surgeons' Hall Museums The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Nicolson Street, EDINBURGH Edinburgh EH8 9DW 0131 527 1711 museum.rcsed.ac.uk

Entry details

Free with National Art Pass (standard entry £6)

Daily, 10am –​ 5pm

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