Aug 102020

High School Yards, Edinburgh EH1 1LZ

surgeon's square
High School Yards with Old Surgeon’s Hall.

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.

Postcard of a painting by J Sanderson of the old Royal Infirmary Edinburgh building at Infirmary Street.
An etching (published in 1829) of Old Surgeon’s Hall and adjacent buildings.
Perspective View of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh at Infirmary Street.

Aug 102020

20 W Richmond St, Edinburgh EH8 9DX

Andrew Duncan

The current MacKenzie Medical Centre was once the site of the Royal Public Dispensary of Edinburgh, Scotland’s first public dispensary. In the early 1770s, Andrew Duncan taught at the University of Edinburgh, using chronically ill patients unable to pay for treatment. As the number of patients at these sessions kept increasing, Duncan proposed a public dispensary that would provide free healthcare in large numbers to the poor. When the dispensary opened in 1783, teaching was a key element of its practice and, as practical experience became a requirement in medical education, from 1890 onwards it was compulsory. In 1963, the dispensary building was donated to the University of Edinburgh. It is now a GP training practice, where students still have the opportunity for hands-on experience.

Mackenzie Medical Centre in 2017 (CC-SA by David Hawgood)
Jun 222019

1 Hillside Crescent, Edinburgh, EH7 5DY; marked with a blue plaque

Photograph of 1 Hillside Crescent with the blue plaque commemorating Thomas Henderson above the door to the right

1 Hillside Crescent (with a blue plaque)

Thomas Henderson (1798-1844) became the first Astronomer Royal for Scotland in 1834. He was also appointed Regius Professor of Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh and worked at the nearby Calton Hill Observatory until his death. His scientific achievements include the calculation of the parallax of a fixed star (the angle describing the difference in the position of a star on the night sky as measured six months apart), leading him to be the first person to measure the distance to Alpha Centauri, one of a group of nearest stars to the Sun. Unfortunately, delaying the publication of his results led to German astronomer Friedrich Bessel and Russian astronomer Friedrich Struve receiving credit for first measuring stellar parallaxes. Throughout his time in Edinburgh, he lived at 1 Hillside Crescent and is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard (very near the memorial in stop number 13 on this tour).

Black and white photograph of Thomas Henderson

Thomas Henderson

Photograph of Thomas Henderson's memorial and grave at Greyfrairs Kirkyard

Thomas Henderson’s memorial/graveside at Greyfriars Kirkyard

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Jun 222019

Colin MacLaurin Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3DW

Black and white photograph of Mary Brück looking through a telescope

Mary Brück

This building at the University of Edinburgh Kings Buildings science campus honours the astronomer and historian of science Mary Brück (1925-2008), who graduated with a PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 1950. She returned in 1962 with the appointment of her husband, Hermann Brück, to the post of the Astronomer Royal for Scotland at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. She carried out research into stars, the gas and dust between stars and the Magellanic Clouds, while also doing historical research on women in astronomy and the history of astronomy in Scotland and her native Ireland. She published articles in several different journals and collaborated with her husband on a biography of the 19th-century Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Charles Piazzi Smyth. In 2018, the Mary Brück building was opened on Colin MacLaurin Road, itself dedicated to an 18th century champion of Astronomy in Edinburgh (whose memorial is visited as stop number 13 of this tour).

Find out more

Mary Brück Building and Brucks’ Cafe

Mary Brück Building and Brucks’ Cafe

Images credit: The University of Edinburgh / Royal Observatory Edinburgh

Apr 032019

16 Chambers Street today

16 Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1HS

On the 8th January 1918, the first lecture for the Edinburgh School of Social Study and training was held, with 11 students enrolled for the diploma class and five others for single classes. The opening of the school followed the opening of a similar school in Glasgow in 1911. Initially, three courses were offered: Social Ethics, Social Economics, and Personal and Public Hygiene. The School officially became part of the University of Edinburgh in 1928, under the direction of Dr. Nora Milnes. Nowadays, the department of Social Work at the university is one of the most respected centres for social work education in the UK and offers a range of educational opportunities at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Photo credit: Ema Smekalova

Jan 152019

Walking path along the water with Granton Harbour wall in the distance and the outlying rock beds

Granton Harbour wall in the distance and the outlying rock beds

Walking Path, West Shore Road, Edinburgh EH5 1QG

Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and entered Edinburgh University to study medicine in 1825. Interested in natural history, he joined the Plinian Society, a University student club, and collected specimens along the shores of the Firth of Forth. The book The Berwick and Lothian Coasts, by Ian Campbell Hannah (1913), refers to Darwin and notes that, About this point the coast again becomes rocky, and Charles Darwin found it a convenient spot for the study of seaweed and shells.” In 1859, a little over two decades after he started university, Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species would be published and go on to become a worldwide bestseller.

Black and white photograph of Charles Darwin taken in 1868.

Charles Darwin. Photo taken by Julia Margaret Cameron during the Darwin family’s 1868 holiday in her Isle of Wight cottage