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William Cullen

Glasgow University Library Special Collections

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William Cullen

An engraved portrait of the physician and chemist William Cullen (1710-1790) by W Cochran and W Howison.

After studying medicine and practicing as a surgeon at sea, Cullen graduated MD from the University of Glasgow in 1740. He moved to Glasgow to practice as a physician and in 1744 he began teaching medicine part-time at the University and included lectures on chemistry: in 1747 he was appointed with John Carrick to the lecturership in Chemistry that was the first to be established in Britain. He became Professor of Medicine in 1751 but continued to give lectures on Chemistry until 1755 when he moved from Glasgow to the University of Edinburgh as a professor of Chemistry.

Cullen was respected for his clear and inspiring lectures and his enthusiasm for practical experiments and demonstrations. His lectures were in English and illustrated, and he developed methods of showing the relationship of substances in chemical reactions by the use of arrowed diagrams.

A friend of Adam Smith (1723-90), William Hunter (1718-1783) and David Hume (1711-76), Cullen was a leading figure in the Scottish Enlightenment. The famous chemist Joseph Black (1728-1799) was one of his students at the University of Glasgow, and the younger man acknowledged Cullen's influence on his subsequent work and career.

Reference: Glasgow University, Department of Chemistry, "Historical Figures" folder

Glasgow University, Department of Chemistry

chemistry, chemists, lecturers, medicine, physicians, portraits, professors, scientists, Scottish Enlightenment, surgeons, University of Glasgow

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