A life in medicine – The story of William Cullen (1710-1790) and John Thomson (1765-1846)

William Cullen was a chemist and physician, as well as a noted teacher of medicine.  He gave lectures in the theory and practice of physic at the University of Glasgow, and was appointed Professor of Medicine in 1751.

John Thomson was a physician and surgeon, and a teacher of medicine in Edinburgh.  In 1832, Thomson published the first volume of An Account of the Life, Lectures and Writings of William Cullen M.D.  This work was continued by his son, Allen Thomson, who published a second volume of the work in 1859.

Presentation copy of the Life of Cullen, with inscription 'To The University of Glasgow presented by Dr Allen Thomson', 1859. (Sp Coll RQ 3055)

The Special Collections Department holds the papers of Cullen, Thomson and Thomson’s two sons,  Allen and his half-brother, William.  Together these collections represent an important resource for researchers, covering the lives and work of these important 18th and 19th century medical men.  The records also provide a unique insight into the creation of a medical biography of Cullen, one of Scotland’s most important physicians.

Portrait of William Cullen (1710-1790)

April 2010 marks the tricentenary of the birth of William Cullen and for the past year, Special Collections staff have been working on a Wellcome Trust-funded project to develop and improve access to these historically significant collections.

The project will culminate in an event to be held in May 2010 at the Centre for the history of Medicine at the University of Glasgow.  This event will be an opportunity to see some of this valuable material, and to hear talks about the men and their legacy. (Blog post by David Steel, Project Archivist)



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  1. Resources for medical history: conservation project begins « University of Glasgow Library

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