Drummond, James Lawson (1783/4–1853), professor of anatomy, was born in Larne, Co. Antrim, younger son of William Drummond, naval surgeon, and Rose Drummond (née Hare). His elder brother was William Hamilton Drummond (qv) (d. 1865). His father died young (May 1787), leaving a widow to bring up two sons and a daughter in straitened circumstances. The family moved to Belfast, where the sons attended Belfast Academy. Against his brother's advice, James entered the Royal Navy as an apprentice surgeon in 1807, saw service in the Mediterranean, resigned in May 1813, and studied for a year at Edinburgh University. He prepared a thesis on the anatomy of the eye, and after graduating MD (June 1814), set up in practice in Belfast, where in 1815 he was appointed physician in the public dispensary. He was the first professor of anatomy (December 1818–1849) in Belfast Academical Institution, resigning when the Institution's faculty was merged in the newly opened QCB; he retired partly as a consequence of ill-health after breaking his leg. In 1826 he suggested that there should be a joint surgical and medical school in the province, and when a faculty of medicine was established in 1835 in Belfast Academical Institution, he was the first president of the faculty in 1835–6 (and again in 1844), and supervised the construction of its accommodation; he subscribed over £200 for the building. He volunteered not to draw salary for two years (1823–5) when the school was in economic difficulties.
Apart from his competent and conscientious teaching in the Institution, where over the years he trained hundreds of future doctors for Ulster and overseas, his main importance was in the promotion of all kinds of scientific interests and avocations in Belfast, where he supported the establishment of a botanic garden from as early as 1820. He was mainly responsible for the establishment of the Belfast Natural History Society in 1821, in which body his example encouraged efforts to collect material for a museum, opened in 1831. It was the first Irish museum outside Dublin, and the first financed by public subscription; Drummond was active in collecting money to build and equip it. He was author of many papers, and of several books on anatomy and natural history. Letters to a young naturalist (1831) was most popular, and First steps to botany (1823) had four editions in twelve years. Volumes on conchology and on wild flowers remained unpublished at his death, which took place in College Square, Belfast, on 17 May 1853.
He married first (30 March 1824) Jane (d. 1831), daughter of John Getty of Belfast and possibly a relative of Edmund Getty (qv); secondly (13 October 1834) Catharine, daughter of Alexander Mitchell of Newgrove; and thirdly (10 May 1850) Eliza, daughter of Daniel O'Rorke. His third wife was twenty years his junior, and (though they married in a Church of Ireland ceremony) was of a catholic family from Ballybollan, Ahoghill, Co. Antrim; she outlived him by forty-three years, until 1896, and was buried with him in the O'Rorke family plot in the old graveyard in Ahoghill. He had no children.