Sophia Jex-Blake (1840-1912) became
Scotland’s first female doctor when she established a private practice in
Edinburgh in September 1878 at 73 Grove Street. In 1885, she opened the
Edinburgh Hospital and Dispensary for Women and Children, just a few doors down
from her private practice. It was a so-called cottage hospital, a small hospital
(6 beds) intended to cater for the immediate needs of the local poor population
without requiring them to travel long distances.
The sixth floor of 1 Roseneath Terrace was home to Eustace Akwei while he studied medicine at Edinburgh during the 1940s. Coincidentally, another Ghanaian medical student, Emmanuel Evans-Anfom, would later move into the very same room. The landlady was therefore “familiar with the ways of students from the Gold Coast” and remarked that Eustace Akwei was “a courteous and cultured gentleman”. Eustace Akwei trained to become a doctor in Edinburgh at a time when it was official policy to exclude indigenous African from practicing medicine in West Africa. From the beginning of the twentieth century to the end of 1945, the medical services in British West Africa were amalgamated and in 1902 the West African Medical Staff (WAMS) was formed. The WAMS formally rejected any physician not of “European parentage” from its ranks and was the only department in the British empire to do so. In 1955, more than half a century after this racist policy was first enacted and a decade after it was repealed, Eustace Akwei became the first Ghanaian to be appointed Chief Medical Officer in the Gold Coast. In 1958, he was one of the prominent doctors present at the inauguration of the Ghana Medical Association.
Born in 1886, Jung Bahadur Singh was an advocate for marginalized colonial subjects in British Guiana (now Guyana). While his time at Edinburgh is poorly documented, we know that he lived with his wife, Alice Bhagwandy Singh, and their children at 15 Melville Terrace. After the abolition of chattel slavery, Britain began to recruit indentured labourers as a substitute. Indentured labourers were paid to work in the Caribbean but were expected to return to South Asia after a 5 year period. Singh had close and personal experiences with indenture – both of his parents were indentured labourers in British Guiana, and between the ages of 16 and 28, he had worked as a medical dispenser on immigration ships. As a result, he became dedicated to representing the plight of diasporic Indians, and when he enrolled to study medicine at Edinburgh in 1914, he became a prominent member of the Edinburgh Indian Association. When Singh completed his studies and returned to British Guiana, he fought for the rights of the Indo-Guyanese to participate in their own governance, to have their non-Christian rites legally recognized, and to receive better pay.
The Confucius Institute for Scotland, 1 Marchhall Crescent, Edinburgh EH16 5HP
The Confucius Institute for Scotland at the University of Edinburgh promotes the “educational, economic, and cultural ties between Scotland and China.” In the 1850s, the University of Edinburgh was one of the first destinations for Chinese students pursuing overseas study. This statue depicts Dr. Wong Fun (Huang Kuan), who was educated as a medical student at the University of Edinburgh between 1850 and 1855. The Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society (EMMS) granted financial support to overseas students studying medicine in Scotland, and aided Dr. Wong financially from 1852. Upon completing his studies, Dr. Wong became the first Chinese student to graduate from any institution across the whole of Europe, as well as the first Western-trained doctor in China. Dr. Wong’s thesis was entitled ‘On Functional Disorders of the Stomach’ and Yung Wing, a former classmate and one of the first Chinese students to graduate in America, remembered him as “one of the ablest surgeons East of the Cape of Good Hope.” After his graduation, Wong was appointed as a clinical clerk to Professor James Miller in the New Surgical Hospital, and later took a position in a missionary hospital in Kum-Lee-Fow.
The Maritime Museum (formerly the South Leith Parish Church and Trinity House), is the site of Leith’s first hospital, St. Anthony’s, founded in 1430 by Sir Robert Logan. The hospital consisted of two parts: hospital and the chapel, and the hospital would have stretched all the way to Henderson Street. In 1560, the Siege of Leith led to the hospital falling into ruin. After the Scottish Reformation, a new hospital, King James’, was erected on the same site in 1614, where it remained until 1822. A memorial stone commemorating the original hospital can be found in the kirkyard, with a small stretch of the original wall from 1614. In 2009 an archaeological excavation of Constitution Street just outside of the church discovered 260 graves, dating from the time of the original hospital on this location.
The four buildings inside High School Yards have a long history of medicine and surgery within Edinburgh. Old Surgeons’ Hall (OSH), built in 1697 by Scottish architect James Smith, was designed as an anatomy theatre and the first public dissection occurred in 1703. By 1832, the surgeons moved to New Surgeons’ Hall on Nicolson Street and OSH and the New High School building (where the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation is currently located) were converted to surgical hospitals. The current School of Geoscience was built in 1853 as a surgical hospital. Known as Drummond Street Surgical Hospital, it was built as part of the Royal Infirmary. When the Royal Infirmary moved to Lauriston Place in 1879, the already established surgical hospitals and Chisholm House were converted into medical facilities for contagious patients. Under the control of Sir Henry Littlejohn, Edinburgh’s Medical Officer, this group of buildings became known as the City Fever Hospital. In 1903 the City Fever Hospital moved to a new location on Coliston Mains and the buildings at HSY were sold to the University of Edinburgh.
Longmore Hospital (now Longmore House) was the first hospital for “incurables” in Edinburgh. Opened in 1875, the hospital took on patients requiring long-term care that the Royal Infirmary was not equipped to provide. In 1891, a new east wing opened with two 14 bed wards, nurses’ quarters and kitchens and a two-storey west wing was added with a basement in 1899. The top two floors housed a new kitchen, laundry room, chapel and mortuary while the basement was reserved for tuberculosis patients. In 1903, the hospital received a royal charter from King Edward VIII and officially became the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Incurables. It joined forces with Liberton Hospital on Lasswade Road in 1906, to allow for even greater capacity. Longmore remained a hospital until 1991, when its services were moved to the General Western Hospital. In 1994 the building was converted into office space for Historic Environment Scotland. Liberton Hospital is still in operation as a hospital for geriatric care.
This is the site of the Bruntsfield Hospital. Dr Sophia Jex-Blake, one of the first women to be enrolled at a British university and the founder of the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women, lived and practised here in Bruntsfield Lodge with her partner Dr Margaret Todd. When Jex-Blake retired in 1899, the Edinburgh Hospital and Dispensary for Women and Children established Bruntsfield Hospital on the site. The hospital was closely linked to Elsie Inglis’ hospital “The Hospice” and, when the two merged in 1910, The Hospice was dedicated to obstetric and infant care and Bruntsfield hospital was responsible for all medical, surgical, and gynaecological work. The hospital closed 90 years after its initial move to Bruntsfield Lodge in 1989 and has since been converted into residential units.
This hospital memorialises Dr Elsie Inglis. Inglis moved to Edinburgh aged 14 and obtained her medical degrees in Scotland, later founding the Medical College for Women and teaching gynaecology there. During WWI, Dr. Inglis started the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service (SWH), independent hospital units staffed by women in France and Siberia, and went to Siberia as the Chief Medical Officer. She was captured and interned there in 1916 and died the day after she returned home to the UK in November 1917. Funds from the SWH were used to build this Memorial Hospital, which operated from 1925 to 1988. The gates of this hospital were built in honour of Alexandra Chalmers Watson. Chalmers Watson, the chief controller of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) during WWI, worked with Inglis and was involved in founding this hospital.