Alexander Monro (primus), lived from 19 September 1697 to 10 July 1767. He was a physician and surgeon, and the first in a line of "Alexander Monros" to be appointed to the post of Professor of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh, and was succeeded in the post by his son Alexander Monro (secundus). The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Alexander Monro was the son of John Monro, an army surgeon who settled in Edinburgh in 1700. His mother was Jean Forbes, whose family owned estates at Culloden. Alexander became a student at the University of Edinburgh in 1710 where he studied classics and philosophy. In 1713 he decided to follow in his father's footsteps as a surgeon and became his apprentice. In 1718 Munro studied in Paris and in Leiden. The following year Alexander Monro returned to Edinburgh and, at the age of 22, was made a lecturer on anatomy by the Surgeon's Company of Edinburgh. In 1723 he was was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.
On 3 January 1725 Alexander married Isabella MacDonald, the daughter of Sir Donald MacDonald of Sleat on Skye. They would have three sons and five daughters together, though only one of the daughters survived into adulthood. Later in 1725 Alexander Monro took up post as Professor of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh. It was a post he and his direct descendents would hold for the following 126 years. In 1726 he published his most famous work which (from the 1732 reprint onwards) was known as: "The Anatomy of the Human Bones with an Anatomical Treatise of the Nerves, and Account of the Reciprocal Motions of the Heart and a Description of the Human Lacteal Sac and Duct." This remained a standard work of reference for a century, seeing its last reprint in 1828.
Alexander Monro did much to establish Edinburgh as an internationally renowned centre for medical training, adopting methods picked up in Paris and Leiden which attracted students from around the world and doing much to make medicine accessible by lecturing in English rather than in Latin, as was the norm at the time. He also worked hard to promote the career of his youngest son, Alexander Monro (secundus). They became joint Professors of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh for a while, before Alexander Monro (primus) retired from the post in 1758 having ensured his son's succession.
Monro continued to practice medicine and to publish books and papers. In all he published two books and 53 papers, the last being An Account of the Inoculation of Smallpox in Scotland which appeared in 1765. He died on 10 July 1767 at his home in Covenant's Close, just off Edinburgh's Royal Mile, and was buried nearby in Greyfriars Kirkyard.