William Cullen was an influential Scottish physician and chemist who helped advance modern medicine and medical education in the 18th century. Cullen studied at two major universities in Scotland that shaped his distinguished medical career.
Quick Facts About William Cullen
- Born on April 15, 1710 in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland
- Attended the University of Glasgow from 1726-1729
- Studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh from 1734-1736
- Received his MD from the University of Glasgow in 1740
- Appointed Professor of Medicine at Glasgow in 1751
- Moved to the University of Edinburgh in 1756 as Professor of Chemistry and Medicine
- Published important medical books like “First Lines of the Practice of Physic” (1776)
- Pioneered clinical lectures and demonstrations for medical education
- Credited with introducing the stethoscope in medicine
- Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London
- Died on February 5, 1790 in Kirknewton, near Edinburgh
Who Was William Cullen?
William Cullen was a Scottish physician, chemist and agriculturalist, who helped develop modern medical education and clinical teaching methods in the 18th century. He was born on April 15, 1710 in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland. His father William was a lawyer and his mother was Margaret Roberton.
As a young man, Cullen was apprenticed to a local surgeon-apothecary where he gained knowledge about medical practice. He also attended Glasgow University from 1726-1729 to study arts subjects. After working as a ship’s surgeon, Cullen completed his medical education at the University of Edinburgh from 1734-1736. 
Cullen began his medical career in Hamilton but soon moved to Glasgow. His public lectures were well-attended and he was appointed Professor of Medicine at Glasgow University in 1751. He continued to advance medical education by pioneering the use of clinical lectures and bedside training for students.
Where Did William Cullen Go to College?
William Cullen attended two major universities in Scotland during the early stages of his medical education and training:
University of Glasgow
Cullen first embarked on university studies at the University of Glasgow between 1726-1729. At that time, the University of Glasgow was one of four ancient universities in Scotland along with St Andrews, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
While at Glasgow, Cullen pursued a general arts education studying Latin, Greek and logic. The university provided a solid educational foundation before he embarked on medical studies several years later. Cullen lived in Glasgow during this period.
University of Edinburgh Medical School
After working for several years, Cullen resumed his medical education at the University of Edinburgh Medical School from 1734-1736.
Edinburgh’s medical school was highly prestigious and attracted students from across Britain and Europe. Cullen studied anatomy, chemistry, medicine, midwifery and botany under leading scientists and physicians of the era. The Edinburgh education provided rigorous clinical and scientific training that prepared Cullen for an illustrious medical career.
Cullen completed his thesis on mild fevers and received his MD degree from the University of Glasgow in 1740. The Glasgow MD was awarded ad gradum absentium meaning in absence, since Cullen finished his medical studies in Edinburgh.
Cullen’s Medical Career and Legacy
After completing his education, William Cullen practiced medicine in Hamilton, Glasgow and eventually Edinburgh. He held professorships at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh where he revolutionized medical education in the 18th century.
Cullen was one of the first professors to lecture in English instead of Latin. His clinical lectures and bedside teachings introduced medical students to patient care and practical experience. This was a major shift from textbook learning only.
As a physician, Cullen was particularly interested in nervous system disorders and mental illness. He published important medical books like First Lines of the Practice of Physic (1776) which was widely used across Europe and America. Cullen also helped introduce the modern use of the stethoscope in medicine.
In honor of his many contributions, Cullen was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1774. Today he is remembered as one of the most important physician-scientists of the Scottish Enlightenment era along with other Edinburgh figures like Joseph Black and James Hutton. Cullen’s innovative approaches helped lay the foundations for modern medical education and clinical teaching.
Follow William Cullen on Social Media
Since William Cullen lived in the 18th century, he does not have any social media accounts or profiles. However, you can follow or learn more about Cullen’s life and works through these online sources:
- University of Edinburgh Library – Archive of Cullen’s works and history
- William Cullen Wiki – Wikipedia article on his life and career
- Glasgow University Archives – Details of Cullen’s time at the University of Glasgow
FAQs About William Cullen
Where was William Cullen born?
William Cullen was born on April 15, 1710 in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland.
What did William Cullen study at the University of Glasgow?
Cullen studied general arts subjects including Latin, Greek and logic at the University of Glasgow from 1726-1729.
When did Cullen attend the University of Edinburgh?
Cullen studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh Medical School from 1734-1736.
What medical subjects did Cullen study in Edinburgh?
In Edinburgh, Cullen studied medical subjects like anatomy, chemistry, medicine, midwifery and botany under leading scientists and physicians.
Where did Cullen graduate and receive his MD degree?
Cullen received his MD degree from the University of Glasgow in 1740 after completing studies in Edinburgh.