While Los Altos resident Dr. Bob Alloo was helping his mother move into an assisted living facility, he discovered a new opportunity buried in a worn-down box in his mom’s garage. He unpacked several sepia-toned Victorian-era photos with the name “John Gibson, WS” written on the back.
The name took him back to stories he was told as a child. John Gibson was his great-great-great-grandfather and the Edinburgh lawyer of the 19th-century poet and author Sir Walter Scott. Alloo’s family knew little of Gibson’s story, but Alloo committed himself to finding the missing link that connected his family to Scottish royalty.
That led him to write his first book, 15 years in the making. With help from Outskirts Press, Alloo this year self-published “In the Warmth of the Limelight.” Reviving the Scottish Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, he reveals the story of how his working-class great-great-great-grandfather rubbed shoulders with Scotland and Britain’s history.
“I’m not that interested in book sales, really,” Alloo said. “It’s more that since I have this information, it should be a part of the historical record.”
Alloo said his research for the book required several trips to Edinburgh, some of which lasted more than a month. He also read stacks of manuscripts, journal entries and letters exchanged between Gibson and Scott. In addition, Alloo took philosophy and creative writing classes at Stanford University.
One of the commonalities he found with Gibson was his rush for intellectual curiosity.
“It’s interesting to see how human behaviors are common in different times and how the different times affected them,” said Alloo, who added that his family‘s lineage includes academics, physicians and lawyers.
Alloo is a retired endocrinologist who taught Stanford medical students at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center for 34 years. He studied at UC Berkeley and the St. Louis University School of Medicine and is a member of the American College of Physicians. He retired from medicine in 2009.
“It was kind of an interesting retirement project for me,” Alloo said. “I learned how to write – well, really, how to write a book. I’d written journal articles before, but never a book.”
During his research, he found many branches to take his work, “but I kind of would like someone else to do it,” he laughed. “Maybe somebody like me will look at (the book) and it’ll trigger something.”
The law firm Gibson founded, now called Anderson Strathern LLP, plans to continue Gibson’s story for the firm’s historical documentation, according to Alloo.
Alloo said his book will be used by the head of Stanford’s legal history department and will be held in Scotland’s National Library and National Gallery.
“In the Warmth of the Limelight” is available online at Outskirts Press.