ALEXANDER WEBSTER, M.D., for many years a very successful medical practitioner in Dundee, was the son of an extensive tenant farmer in the parish of Inverarity, and was born in 1799. After completing his education at the parish school, and at the High School in Forfar, he was apprenticed to Dr Hall, of Forfar, with whom he learned the rudiments of his profession.
On completing his period of probation with this gentleman, lie studied at the University of Edinburgh, where, in 1822, he took the degree of M.D. After graduating, he obtained an appointment as surgeon to an East Indiaman—a post which had great attractions for young graduates in those days.
One voyage to Calcutta seems, however, to have been a sufficient experience of maritime adventure for the Doctor ; and in May 1825, he commenced the practice of his profession in Dundee. He soon worked himself into an extensive and lucrative practice ; and in 1832, he was appointed Dispensary Surgeon to the Royal Infirmary. During the frightful cholera visitation in that year, the Doctor, whose courage in braving diseases of all kinds was well known, exerted himself with an energy which rendered him conspicuous in the profession. In 1833, the office of Police Surgeon having become vacant by the death of Dr Stephen, he was appointed by the Commissioners as that gentleman's successor. Being a good practical chemist, the Doctor was in the habit of occasionally giving lectures on chemistry in the Watt Institution ; and in 1835, he was appointed by the Magistrates to analyse water procured from various sources, with the view of finding the quality best suited for the wants of the inhabitants ; and the same year he was called before a Committee of the House of Commons to give evidence on the question. He filled the office of Dispensary Surgeon for some years with credit to himself and satisfaction to the directors, and was in 1839 elected Visiting Physician, which appointment he held for about twenty years, when he was called to the office of senior Consulting Physician, which office he held till the time of his death. Altogether, for a period of thirty years, Dr Webster was an honoured and faithful officer of the local hospital. In 1840, Dr Webster took an active interest in the formation of a Statistical Society ; but though supported by many gentlemen well qualified for such investigations, and warmly encouraged by Dr Cleland, of Glasgow, it appears never to have come into practical operation. Although no one had the interests of the town more sincerely at heart than Dr Webster, he took no prominent part in local politics. Upon only one occasion is he known to have taken part in any public meetings or discussions, however much opinions might be advanced jarring with his own. The singular
exception to his usual diffidence was when he appeared on the stage of the theatre in the character of 'Captain Thornton' in the play of Rob Roy. The exchequer of the Infirmary being exhausted, it became a serious question, in a time of much public distress, how it could be most readily replenished. The Doctor naturally felt a
great interest in the matter, and having at the time medical charge of the soldiers stationed in the Barracks, the thought occurred to him, that the novelty of some scenic entertainment, performed by amateurs in the art, might draw a respectable audience. On proposing this to the officers, and to other young gentlemen in the town, they readily agreed to grant their services—but on condition that the Doctor himself should take a part. The Doctor, rather than that the plan should fail, reluctantly agreed to do so ; and a sufficient staff of amateurs was mustered for the occasion. The performance took place on Thursday, Jan. 4, 1838, and turned out what, in histrionic language, is called ' a great success -that is to say, it provided funds to meet the exigencies of the Infirmary. It s but due to the memory of Dr Webster to state, that this mode of raising funds for the Infirmary originated with himself ; and if his modesty in placing himself before a public audience was for once overcome, it was only by one of the noblest motives that could influence the human heart —that of affording the wealthy a few hours of rational and innocent amusement, to receive in return a small portion of their riches to sustain and keep alive those less blessed with earthly treasures. Dr Webster died of inflammation of the lungs on Tuesday, Dec.8, 1863, aged 64.*
Norrie, W. (1873) Dundee Celebrities of the Nineteenth Century. P.P. 228-230