Opening of New Medical School, 1884

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A new Medical School designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson (1834-1921) was officially opened in 1884.

The opening of the school was the centrepiece of Edinburgh University's Tercentenary Festival, which was delayed for a year from the historically correct tercentenary date of 1883 to allow for the completion of the building. The new buildings were a response both to growing student numbers and to changing approaches to the teaching of medicine. Where clinical experience in the Royal Infirmary had previously been thought sufficient for a trainee doctor, it was now felt that students required a grounding in scientific theory. The great medical schools of Europe were increasingly fitted with laboratories, museums, and theatres for both teaching and research. The Medical Faculty's existing accommodation in Old College could clearly not be extended or adapted for such purposes.

A bequest of £20,000 from Dundee industrialist Sir David Baxter of Kilmaron (1793–1872) permitted the university to start planning a new school in earnest. In January 1874 to held a public architectural competition to find the best design for a new site. The winning submission came from Sir Robert Rowand Anderson, whose original plan incorporated a giant campanile and a hall for examination and graduation. The University then launched a public appeal to raise funds for a new site which brought in donations amounting to £82,000 before the end of 1874. An application was made to the Government, who awarded the university an additional sum of £80,000, on condition, however, that the campanile and hall were dropped from Anderson's design.

When building work began, it was soon found that the University had underestimated the cost of equipping the laboratories and incorporating the latest scientific advances. Further appeals raised another £130,000, but at the time of the official opening in 1884, the building was not completely fitted out.

A further appeal for £15,000 had to be launched in January 1885 and it was not until 26 October 1888 that the new building was formally handed over to the Senatus Academicus.

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  • Robert Anderson, 'Ceremony in Context: The Edinburgh University Tercentenary, 1884', Scottish Historical Review, 87 (2008), 121-45 [[1], accessed 1 August 2014]