Research Resources in Medical History

Research Resources in Medical History

Special Collections received funding from the Wellcome Trust’s ‘Research Resources in Medical History’ scheme to catalogue our extensive medical records, which date from the 15th to 20th centuries.

Pre-1860 Collections

Throughout this period Aberdeen was unique in having two universities awarding degrees in medicine: King College, established in 1495 and Marischal College founded in 1593. Both institutions maintained close links with other early European universities, a fact reflected in the volume and geographic span of many of the collections, making them a rich resource for British and European medical history from the medieval through to the modern period.

Highlights include a late 14th-century compendium of medical receipts; the papers of key Aberdeen Enlightenment figure, David Skene (1731-1770), whose voluminous medical case notes provide wonderful detail for medical historians, especially those interested in obstetrics and gynaecology; and the records of other local physicians whose surviving papers illustrate medical practice in the British colonies, aboard East India vessels as well as whaling vessels. European medical history is represented in a rare 10-volume set of manuscript notes of the lectures of Leiden professor, Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738), widely regarded as the first great clinical teacher. But by far the largest collection included in the project is the Gregory Collection, which contains the personal and professional papers of 20 members of this internationally-renowned scientific family, which over the period 1582-1912 produced no fewer than 16 professors within five generations.

The collections are available via the University's Archive Collections catalogue.

Post-1860 Collections

The collections submitted for cataloguing reflect the University’s expertise, from the late-nineteenth century, in the allied fields of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and pathology. They provide researchers with the opportunity to explore the unique contributions made by significant members of this community to their professions; and to trace the developing role of these relatively new disciplines in medical education.

The collections are available via the University's Archive Collections catalogue.

University of Aberdeen Department of Anatomy (UNIVERSITY 1332)

Marischal College appointed Allen Thomson (1809-84) to Aberdeen’s first Chair in Anatomy, 1839-40. His successor, Allan Jardine Lizars (d 1866), became first Chair of Anatomy in Aberdeen University, 1860-63, followed by Sir John Struthers (1823-99), 1863-89, under whom the Regius Chair of Anatomy was instituted. These men and their successors made significant contributions to medical training and to Anatomical and Anthropological research, laying the foundations for Aberdeen’s reputation as one of the leading twentieth century Anatomy Schools in Britain.

Robert Reid (1851 - 1931), Regius Professor of Anatomy, 1889 -1925 (MS 3753)

Reid achieved prominence through the discovery of 'Reid's Base Line' and during his time in Aberdeen made significant contributions to the development of Anatomy and Anthropology in the University and locally. He established an anthropometrical laboratory in the Anatomy Department in 1896 and founded the University’s anthropological museum in 1907. With his encouragement and support, medical students formed the forward-thinking Anatomical and Anthropological Society (est. 1899).

Alexander Low (1868-1950), Regius Professor of Anatomy, 1925-1938 (MS 2629)

Low joined the Department of Anatomy as an assistant in 1894. A meticulous researcher, his work focussed upon the embryological development of the mandible, the skeletal remains of Neolithic and Bronze Age skeletons and human anthropometry. His work in this last field was most significant, with research undertaken in the 1920s laying the foundations for the famous Aberdeen Growth Study of 1956.

Robert Douglas Lockhart (1894-1987), Regius Professor of Anatomy, 1938-1965 (MS 3270)

An outstanding teacher of Anatomy, Lockhart was first author of the standard and much reprinted teaching texts, Anatomy of the Human Body (London: Faber, 1959) and Living Anatomy: a photographic atlas of muscles in action and surface contours (London: Faber, 1948). An entertaining orator, he was also much sought after as an after-dinner speaker, and in his talks cleverly combined his passion for horticulture and literature with contemporary anatomical themes.

University of Aberdeen Anatomical and Anthropological Society (est. 1899) (UNIVERSITY 1442)

Founded by medical students in 1899, the society aimed to promote anatomical and anthropological research, but also stimulated interest in the allied disciplines of anthropometry and archaeology. Members and invited lecturers, including many distinguished experts in their field of study, presented talks for discussion and debate.

University of Aberdeen, Department of Pathology (est. 1882) (UNIVERSITY 1439)

A Chair in Pathological Anatomy was instituted in 1882, under a generous endowment from Sir Erasmus Wilson. Aberdeen was the second Scottish medical school to institute a chair of pathology and quickly established a reputation as one of the premier pathology departments in Britain. Today, it is among the busiest in the country, with both academic and NHS members of staff providing a full range of educational, research, clinical and training activities.

Alexander Logie Stalker (1920-87), Regius Professor of Pathology, 1972-1982 (MS 3471)

Stalker entered the University’s Pathology Department as a lecturer in 1947, where he quickly earned a reputation as a skilful teacher and an active member of the research community. His main research interest was in microcirculation and he served terms as President of the British Microcirculation Society, 1968-73 and of the European Society for Microcirculation, 1970-71.

William Clark Souter (1880 - 1959), ophthalmologist (MS 3755)

Souter was ophthalmic surgeon to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Aberdeen Eye Institution, Aberdeen Maternity Hospital and lecturer in ophthalmology in the University of Aberdeen from c. 1920 until his retirement in 1946. A long-serving member and president of the British Medical Association and of Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society, he received the polar medal for his service as ship's surgeon on the Terra Nova relief expedition to the Antarctic, 1903–1904.

Mary Esslemont (1891-1984), CBE, physician (MS 3179)

Mary Esslemont is one of Aberdeen’s most highly regarded medical figures. A strong advocate of women’s rights, health education and family planning, her work touched the lives of most families living in the city during the middle years of the twentieth century. She achieved many notable female ‘firsts’ and was an active campaigner for nuclear disarmament, dedicated Soroptomist, and served on several United Nations committees.

Hans Kosterlitz (1903-1996), Professor Emeritus and Director of the Unit for Research on Addictive Drugs, 1973-1996 (MS 3682)

Kosterlitz joined the Department of Physiology as an assistant in 1934. His early work focused on clinical radiology, galactosemia and nutrition, but it was through his later research on the autonomic nervous system and narcotic drugs he achieved worldwide acclaim. His discovery in 1975, of encephalins earned him fellowship of the Royal Society in 1978, and revolutionised research into the effects of addictive drugs on humans.