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Scottish Enlightenment Archives

TitleScottish Enlightenment Archives
DescriptionEdinburgh University’s pivotal role in establishing Scotland’s capital as one of the major centres of the 18th-century European Enlightenment is reflected in a wide range of archival collections covering the fields of philosophy, science, medicine, literature, and law. Our philosophical collections include lectures and correspondence by Adam Ferguson (Professor of Moral Philosophy, 1764-1785), who has been hailed as the father of modern sociology. Ferguson was also one of the founding members of the city’s Poker Club, a hotbed of Enlightenment thought, whose minutes we hold. Major Enlightenment scientific archives include: extensive correspondence by Joseph Black (Professor of Chemistry, 1766-1799); manuscripts by astronomer and instrument maker James Ferguson and by John Walker (Professor of Natural History, 1779-1803); and notes from the lectures of Colin Maclaurin (Professor of Mathematics, 1725-1746) and John Robison (Professor of Natural Philosophy, 1773-1805). The pioneering work of Edinburgh’s Medical School is captured in a number of important collections. We have student notes recording the lectures of one of the great academic dynasties, the three Alexander Monro’s (primus, secundus, and tertius), who between them held Edinburgh’s Chair of Anatomy from 1720-1846. There are further lecture notes (and correspondence) by William Cullen, who focused on the role of the nervous system in disease and coined the term ‘neurosis’. We also hold a bound volume of the clinical cases of Cullen’s great colleague and rival John Gregory, with whom he shared the Chair of Theory of Physic from 1766 to 1773. Edinburgh University has the world’s oldest English Literature department, inaugurated by the appointment of Church of Scotland minister and literary taste-maker Hugh Blair to the Chair of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in 1762. We hold a wide selection of Blair’s correspondence and sermons, together with notes of his lectures on Rhetoric. Finally, Enlightenment legal thought is represented by the Papers of Alan Maconochie, Lord Meadowbank, consisting of lectures and lecture notes on subjects as diverse as education, monarchy, international and constitutional law, currency, and agriculture.
OriginEdinburgh; Scotland

Image: Membership List of the Poker Club