William Smellie was born in Lanark, Scotland in 1697. It is unknown where he received his training, but by 1720 he had a practice in that town as a surgeon and apothecary. In 1733 he was admitted to the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow where he became a noted teacher of midwifery. He moved to London in 1739 and a few years later became the teacher of William Hunter, another notable English man-midwife of that era. It was not until 1745 that Smellie received his medical degree from the University of Glasgow.
Over the next twenty years he published a number of important works on midwifery, including A treatise on the theory and practice of midwifery (1752) and A collection of cases and observations in midwifery (1754). He is credited with describing childbirth more accurately than any previous writer and with demonstrating the importance of exact measurement of the pelvis. Dr. Smellie died at his Lanark estate, "Smellom," on March 5, 1763. In 1754, William Smellie published the monumental work, A sett of anatomical tables, with explanations, and an abridgment, of the practice of midwifery. It was intended to accompany his other noted books, Treatise on the theory and practice of midwifery and Collection of cases. Up to that time, it was the most detailed and accurate demonstration of childbirth ever printed with respect to both technique and anatomical description. The copper plates were skillfully engraved by Charles Grignion (1717-1810) after drawings mainly by Jan van Rymsdyk (fl. 1750-1788), with the addition of 11 by Petrus Camper (1722-1789), and 2 by "another hand" - probably by Smellie himself..
Dictionary of National Biography. (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1897). Vol. 52, pp. 399-400.
Johnstone, R. W. William Smellie. (Edinburgh: Livingstone, 1952).
Russell, K. F. British anatomy, 1525-1800: a bibliography of works published in Britain, America and on the Continent. 2nd ed. (Winchester, Hampshire: St. Paul's Bibliographies, 1987). Introduction and nos. 753-766.
Smellie, William. A sett of anatomical tables, with explanations, and an abridgment of the practice of midwifery. Facsimile reprint. (Philadelphia: Saunders, [ca. 1968]).
Thornton, J.L. and Want, P.C. "Jan van Rymsdyk's illustrations of the gravid uterus drawn for Hunter, Smellie, Jenty and Denman." The Journal of audiovisual media in medicine, 1979 Jan; 2(1):11-5.