Apr 172016
 

8-12 Niddry Street South, Edinburgh, EH1 1NS

The Oyster Club This weekly dining club for scientists and philosophers met regularly throughout the 1770s. It had been established by the great economist and political philosopher Adam Smith, the chemist Joseph Black and the geologist James Hutton. The club was attended by a veritable constellation of Edinburgh’s most brilliant thinkers, including John Playfair, Adam Ferguson, David Hume and Sir James Hall. It also payed host to a wide variety of visiting international scientists, including the French geologist Barthélémy Faujas de Saint Fond, James Watt the engineer and inventor from Glasgow, and Benjamin Franklin the American scientist and inventor.

Now a private venue – no free public access.

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Apr 172016
 

38 Calton Hill, Edinburgh, EH7 5AA

The City Observatory on Calton Hill.

 

An observatory on Calton Hill was first proposed by Colin Maclaurin, Edinburgh’s professor of mathematics, in 1736. However, these plans came to nothing until Thomas Short brought a 12-foot reflecting telescope to the city in 1776, with the intention of opening a public observatory as a commercial enterprise. The university helped him with the cost of building the observatory on condition it was open to students. Short’s observatory became the property of the city on his death, but his daughter Maria Theresa ran her own observatory on Calton Hill before moving to a new site on Castlehill in 1850. Today, the site is run by the Collective, a centre for contemporary art.

 

The Gothic Tower at the Edinburgh City Observatory on Calton Hill, 1792.

The Gothic Tower at the Edinburgh City Observatory on Calton Hill, 1792.

The Playfair Building at the Edinburgh City Observatory on Calton Hill, 1824.

The Playfair Building at the Edinburgh City Observatory on Calton Hill, 1824.

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Mar 082016
 

Site of Edinburgh physic gardenPlatform 11, Waverley Station, Edinburgh EH1 1BB

From 1675 to 1763 the Edinburgh Physic Garden was near what is now platform 11 of Waverley Station. At the time it was close to the shores of a small lake, the Nor’ Loch. The site is now marked with a blue plaque. The garden had originally been established at Holyrood in 1670 by Sir Robert Sibbald and Sir Andrew Balfour, founder members of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. They were inspired to found it by similar gardens they had seen in France. It existed to provide medicinal plants and to teach botany to medical students.

 

Physic Garden commemorative plaque, Waverley Station

Plaque commemorating the site of Edinburgh’s physic garden, opposite platform 11, Waverley Station.

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Mar 082016
 

13 Sylvan Place, Edinburgh EH9 1LH

Joseph Black's house

Up an alleyway here you will find the house where the great chemist Joseph Black lived in around 1740. To get to the university from here Black only had to walk across the Meadows, where he often took a stroll with his friends the economist and political philosopher Adam Smith and the geologist James Hutton. Among his important contributions to chemistry were the discovery of carbon dioxide and latent heat. He discovered the latter principle when he observed that applying heat to boiling water produces more steam, but does not raise its temperature above its boiling point.

No public access.

 

Portrait of Joseph Black (1728–99).

Commemorative plaque on Joseph Black’s house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mar 082016
 

Crown Office, 25 Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LA

phrenology museumUntil 1886 this was the site of Edinburgh’s phrenological museum, founded by the president of the Edinburgh Phrenological Society, George Combes. Phrenologists believed that people’s characters were determined by the development of the ‘organs’ of the brain, which could by read by examining the shapes of their skulls. It represented an early attempt to explain the human mind in terms of the physical structure of the brain. The carved stone heads on the exterior of the building reflected its occupants interest in the shapes of people’s craniums.

No public access.

V0001202 George Combe. Stipple engraving by C. H. Jeens, 1878, after Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org George Combe. Stipple engraving by C. H. Jeens, 1878, after Sir D. Macnee. 1878 By: Daniel MacNeeafter: Charles Henry JeensPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

George Combe (1788–1848).

L0022893 George Combe, names of phrenological organs, 1836 Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Names of the phrenological organs Outlines of phrenology George A. Combe Published: 1836 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The phrenological organs, from George Combe, Outlines of Phrenology (1836).

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Mar 042016
 

10 Surgeon’s Square, Edinburgh EH1 1LZ

surgeon's square

At number 10 Surgeon’s Square Robert Knox ran his extra-mural anatomy school from the death of its original proprietor, John Barclay, in 1826 until 1844. Knox bought the bodies of many of the victims of Burke and Hare. He was a flamboyant character, whose controversial views made him popular with his students. Although he was found innocent of any involvement in the murders, the scandal ruined his career. Robert Grant, who taught invertebrate zoology in the same school, was an early evolutionary thinker and friend of Charles Darwin while a student in Edinburgh in 1825-27.

No public access.

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