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William Cormick

William Cormick

The basics
Quick Facts
Gender male
Birth 1822
Death 30 December 1877
The details

William Cormick (born 1822, Tabriz — died 30 December 1877), was a physician in Qajar Iran of British origin during the reigns of Mohammad Shah Qajar (1834-1848) and Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (1848-1896), who is noted for having played an important role in the diffusion of Western medicine into Iranian society.


William Cormick was born in Tabriz to the Irish physician John Cormick and an Armenian woman of the city. After having been sent to England at the age of ten to pursue his education, he subsequently enrolled into the medical faculty of the University College of London, and he received his qualification as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons on 17 July 1840. The year after, he received his membership of the Society of Apothecaries, as well as a doctors degree in medicine from St. Andrew's in London. In 1844-1855, he worked as a physician in London and in Paris, when relatively shortly afterwards, he was summoned back to Iran by then incumbent king Mohammad Shah Qajar, initially as the second physician to the British mission as well as to become the personal physician to the king himself. In 1846 he was appointed as the second physician to the family of Abbas Mirza. Later on, he became the personal physician to the crown prince and the future king Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, on the event when the latter was given the governorship of the Azerbaijan province, which he held for seven months.

During the court process of the Báb in Tabriz in July 1848, William Cormick and two Iranian physicians were given the task to check whether the former could be classified as mentally insane or not, because, apparently, the then governing authorities were "reluctant" to give him the death sentence. Cormick, on the question of the Báb himself, visited the latter several times as part of the treatment he was allowed to receive after he was "bastinadoed" following the court trial. As such, Cormick is the only recorded Westerner to have personally met the Báb. The accounts of his meetings with the Báb he would present later in a letter to an American missionary friend named J. H. Shedd.

Upon the ascension of Naser al-din Shah Qajar to the throne in 1848, Cormick travelled with him to Tehran. However, upon the decision of the prime minister (vazīr) Amir Kabir, he was replaced by the French physician Ernest Cloquet. This as a part of the policy pursued by Iran to avoid any dependence on either Russia or Great Britain.

Cormick returned to Tabriz, where he lived for the rest of his life, continued to practise medicine, and became rich. For his merits, he was awarded the Order of the Lion and the Sun (2nd class). On 19 October 1876, Cormick became a fellow of the British Royal College of Surgeons. He was married to an Armenian woman named Tamar, who was the younger sister of Edward Burgess (a trader) his Armenian wife. William Cormick died on 30 December 1877, and was buried in his place of birth, in Tabriz, in the same cemetery as his father, brother and nine other Cormick family members.

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