Foundation of Faculty of Medicine, 1726

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The Faculty of Medicine was founded in 1726, laying the foundation for Edinburgh University's international reputation as a centre of medical teaching and research.

On 9 February 1726, four Edinburgh doctors John Rutherford (1695–1779), Andrew Sinclair (c1698-1760), Andrew Plummer (1697-1756), and John Innes (1696-1733) presented a petition to the Town Council, requesting that they 'institute the Profession of Medicine' at Edinburgh University and appoint the petitioners to teach the subject. The Town Council acceded to their request, replying that such a step would be of great advantage to the university, city, and country. They therefore appointed Sinclair and Rutherford as Professors of the Theory and Practice of Medicine and Plummer and Innes as Professors of Medicine and Chemistry. They were granted full power not only to teach medicine 'in all its branches' but to examine students and confer degrees in medicine.

The four doctors knew that their petition was likely to find friendly ears. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, George Drummond (1688-1766), had long worked in partnership with John Monro (d. 1740), Deacon of the Incorporation of Surgeons, to create a medical school in the city. The first step had been the appointment of Monro's son Alexander Monro ''primus'' (1697-1767) to the newly created Chair of Anatomy in 1720. In October 1726, a meeting of the Senatus Academicus formally recognized the Chair of Anatomy and the four newly created chairs as constituting a Faculty of Medicine.

John Rutherford and John Innes essentially lectured on the Practice of Physic and Andrew Sinclair on the Institutes of Theory of Medicine. Andrew Plummer appears to have taken over the teaching of Chemistry from James Crawford (1682-1731) who had been appointed to the newly created Chair of Chemistry in 1713. Crawford had divided his time between the Chairs of Chemistry and Hebrew since 1719 but from now on taught Hebrew alone.

At the time of the Foundation of the Faculty, Edinburgh University had employed a Professor of Botany since 1695. This Chair, however, was not amalgamated with the Faculty of Medicine until the appointment of Charles Alston (1683-1760) in 1738.

Sources

  • Alexander Bower, The History of the University of Edinburgh. 3 vols. Edinburgh, 1817-1830.
  • Sir Alexander Grant, The Story of the University of Edinburgh during its First Three Hundred Years, 2 vols (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1884)