William Beattie was born at Dalton, Annandale, the son of a builder. He attended Clarencefield Academey in Dumfrieshire, and studied medicine at Edinburgh University (M.D. 1818) and practiced at Cumberland (1820-22) and Hamptead (1827-45). He traveled on the Continent with the duke of Clarence (afterwards William IV) in 1822, 1825, and 1826, and was an intimate friend of Thomas Campbell, the countess of Blessington, and Lady Byron.
Tentamen medica inauguralis de phthisi pulmonali. 1818.
Journal of a residence in Germany. 1831.
The heliotrope, or, Pilgrim in pursuit of health cantos first and second. 1833.
Switzerland, illustrated in a series of views. 1835.
The Waldenses, or, Piedmont and Dauphiny. 1836.
Scotland, illustrated in a series of views. 2 vols, 1838.
Polynesia, or, Missionary toils and triumphs in the South Seas. 1839.
The castles and abbeys of England. 1842.
The Danube: its history, scenery and topography. 1844.
Life and letters of Thomas Campbell. 1850.
Brief memoir of the late William Henry Bartlett. 1855.