Enter Stage Left: William Cullen

With the cane project basically complete I was set to begin researching the large collection of busts that the College has. These busts are mostly of presidents of the RCPE from the 18th and 19th centuries, with the odd RCPE Fellow thrown in, as well as a few classical figures.

However, that is a massive project, and with everything else going on at the College this spring it seemed like a bit much, and on Friday Iain asked if I’d be interested in preparing a display for the William Cullen and the Medical Enlightenment; An International Symposium in April instead. Sounds good to me! Plus, I would have been surprised if Cullen hadn’t entered my internship again (I already did a bit on his cane), as he was such a major player in eighteenth century medicine in Edinburgh and at the RCPE. So I spent the afternoon going through minutes of meetings from when Cullen was librarian, secretary, and president of the RCPE. I came up with a few interesting tidbits, but there’s a lot more to look at before I get any great ideas.

So who is this Cullen anyway?

Briefly, as I know I can be a bit long winded, William Cullen was a physician whose life spanned the eighteenth century. He was a sociable and well respected man both personally and professionally, and in the course of his career he changed the nature of professorship in Scottish universities, ran a thriving practice out of his home with clients from across Britain, the Continent, and the American Colonies, was a president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and published influential treatise on a number of topics.

I will write more about Cullen I’m sure, but for now, know that he was an important figure in the Scottish Enlightenment and a thoroughly likable man, despite the silliness of his wig.

William Cullen, 1772. By Valentine Green. Mezzotint engraving. 278 x 367 mm. From RCPE collection.

William Cullen, 1772. By Valentine Green. Mezzotint engraving. 278 x 367 mm. From RCPE collection.

And here’s the Cullen Symposium Schedule, which will be held on 5-6 April, 2013, in the RCPE at 9 Queen Street. It’s going to be a hoot!


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