Sir Henry Duncan Littlejohn: the beginning
Henry Duncan Littlejohn was born in the family home at 33 Leith Street on the 8 May 1826. He was the seventh child of Thomas Littlejohn, master baker and Burgess of Edinburgh, and his wife, Isabella Duncan. Henry was educated at Perth Academy before enrolling in Edinburgh’s Royal High School in 1838. The School’s records, preserved in Edinburgh City Archives, reveal that he entered the School in the 4th year class taught by a Mr Mackay before moving into the Rector’s Class until session 1840-41. It was after his final year at the school in 1841 that Henry matriculated at the University of Edinburgh and studied medicine, graduating with distinction in 1847. Then followed a period of post-graduate training including a stint as house surgeon at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and abroad in educational institutions such as the Sorbonne in Paris. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh in 1854.
Littlejohn’s association with the Old Town began with his appointment by Edinburgh Town Council as Police Surgeon in 1854. By 1856 he had begun lecturing in forensic medicine at Surgeons’ Hall and two years later was appearing in Edinburgh’s justiciary courts as crown medical examiner; his professional reputation grew apace. In 1859 the Board of Supervision for the Relief of the Poor (the body with overall responsibility for administering the Scottish Poor Law) commissioned him to investigate and report upon the sanitary condition of Wick. This not only led to his permanent appointment as medical adviser to the Board but appears to mark the beginnings of his interest in the links between sanitary conditions, health and well-being – the basis of his later work in Edinburgh.