IMPERIAL court physician James Wylie was born in November 1768 at Tulliallan by Kincardine.

At the time Kincardine was a thriving sea-port and he would have been expected to go into that line of work.

However, this was not the life he chose. Instead, Wylie became apprenticed to a local doctor and began to study medicine.

During his training he ran off on a ship, but his mother persuaded him to return and resume his studies.

He attended the University of Edinburgh in order to complete his degree. It is known he was present there in 1786, 1787, 1788 and 1789, but he never graduated until he later entered the Russian Army where he had to pass his medical exam so he could practice.

The reason he did not graduate in Scotland is unclear, but a rumour circulated, and has now become legend, that he was caught sheep rustling, which was a serious offence, so he hid in a load of hay being transported from Leith docks and made good his escape from justice.

Why Wylie chose to go to Russia is unclear, but there were numerous Scottish doctors in the country, and Peter the Great enticed them there in order to break the monopoly the priests had in medical matters.

The Tsar’s own physician for a time was Dr Robert Erskine, from Alva, and it is possible during a royal tour of Europe Wylie got wind of the Tsar favouring Scots.

When he arrived in the country, he joined the army, as mentioned, and when he passed his exam, he was attached to Eletsky Regiment.

During this time, he still managed to further his studies although he had to learn Russian to do so.

He went on to write a treatise on yellow fever in Russian and perhaps because of this, he was finally awarded his degree on 22nd December 1794 from King’s College in Aberdeen, although he was mistakenly called John.

Wylie became friends with fellow Scot, Dr Rogerson from Dumfries-shire, who introduced him to his friends in royal circles. Rogerson recommended him as a surgeon as his abilities and talent were exceptional for the time.

By this time the new Tsar was Paul, who was deemed insane. In 1798, his favourite, Kutaisov developed swelling on his neck, and as the abscess grew it began to threaten his breathing.

The other court doctors were hesitant to deal with it, but Wylie was summoned one night, and lanced the abscess.

Almost immediately the swelling went down, and in gratitude Paul appointed him court physician.

IN 1800 James Wylie of Kincardine, physician to Tsar Paul, took the first step in building and sponsoring the Medico-Chirurgical Academy in St Petersburg in order to re-organise medicine and how it was taught in Russia.

A year later, on March 11, the Tsar was murdered by a group of drunken and disgruntled officers. Three Scots doctors were appointed to do the post mortem, Wylie among them.

He signed the death certificate stating he had died of apoplexy, although in fact had died of strangulation. Why he did this is unknown.

The new Tsar Alexander continued to support Wylie as court physician and as he rose in court, in 1804, he was in a position to change the status of the St Petersburg and Moscow Academies of Medicine to training colleges.

He was appointed president of the Moscow Academy, a post he held for 30 years. A year later he published a treatise on ‘The American Yellow Fever’ in Russian, and in 1806 was appointed Inspector-General of the Army Board of Health as Napoleon flexed his muscles in Europe.

Wylie reorganised how medical supplies were dealt with and transported, and in 1812, he was posted to the battle field as the French and Russians fought each other.

He operated on around 200 men and accompanied Alexander to Vilna where the French had fallen back to in November.

It was utter carnage as the Cossacks slaughtered them in cold blood, but the war was far from over.

However, on March 30, 1814 the Russians were finally victorious, and Alexander and Wylie found themselves in Paris where peace terms were to be agreed.

Being so close to England, the Tsar and Wylie visited Hampton Court and Ascot and were entertained by George, the Prince Regent.

At the end of 1825, the Tsar died. He had taken ill and on December 1 he passed away, but the new Emperor Nicholas continued Wylie’s service at court.

By this time Wylie had been honoured with numerous accolades including the Order of St Vladimir and foreign honours including the Légion d’Honneur. He was also a member of the Russia’s Privy Council.

In 1840 he celebrated 40 years in the Imperial service and was given a special medal.

On December 2, 1854, Sir James Wylie died. He never married or had children, but amassed a fortune.

He bequeathed it all to the Tsar except for £100,000 which he wanted to go to building an Army Medical Academy, where today a life size statue of Wylie overlooks his greatest contribution to Russian medicine.