William Smellie (1697–1763)

By Yvette Tran
Published: 2017-05-30

William Smellie helped to incorporate scientific medicine into the process of childbirth in eighteenth century Britain. As a male physician practicing in childbirth and female reproductive health (man-midwife), Smellie developed and taught procedures to treat breech fetuses, which occur when a fetus fails to rotate its head towards the birth canal during delivery. Throughout his career, Smellie compiled a wealth of information about female anatomy in his writings. He modified medical technology such as the obstetrical forceps, an instrument used to maneuver the fetus during childbirth. Smellie's techniques and improvements on forceps alleviated pain in women giving birth, mitigated complications during birth, and reduced infant mortality rates.

How to cite

Tran, Yvette, "William Smellie (1697–1763)". Embryo Project Encyclopedia (2017-05-30). ISSN: 1940-5030 http://embryo.asu.edu/handle/10776/11530.

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Arizona State University. School of Life Sciences. Center for Biology and Society. Embryo Project Encyclopedia.


Copyright Arizona Board of Regents Licensed as Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018 - 04:40


People, Reproduction


Breech Presentation; Smellie, William, 1697-1763; Smellie, William, 1697-1763. Set of anatomical tables, with explanations, and an abridgement, of the practice of midwifery; Smellie, William, 1697-1763. Collection of cases and observations in midwifery. Selections; Midwives; Obstetrical forceps; Childbirth; Obstetrics; Labor (Obstetrics); Hunter, William, 1718-1783; Hunter, John, 1728-1793; People