The Cradle of Chemistry

The Early Years of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh

Edited by Robert G. W. Anderson

Format: Hardback

Explains how, within the medical faculty in Edinburgh, chemistry flourished and gained a world-wide reputation in the eighteenth century. A key resource for students of history of science and Scottish history, medical historians and Enlightenment scholars.

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Birlinn Limited

Birlinn publishes mostly non-fiction books, ranging from biography to history, military history and Scottish interest. Their imprints, Polygon Books, Arena Sport Books and John Donald Books, publish a wide variety of genres including culture, literary fiction, poetry and sports.

Product Description


From the mid eighteenth century, many medical students from across the world made their way to Edinburgh, drawn by the reputation of the faculty and the quality and nature of its teaching. Chemistry, in particular, had star performers, notably William Cullen and Joseph Black, whose innovative teaching styles excited and inspired their audiences. This book, which is based on conference papers given at the Crawford tercentenary meeting held at the Royal Society of Edinburgh in October 2013, describes the progress of chemistry at the University of Edinburgh from the appointment of the first professor, James Crawford, in 1713 to the career of Thomas Charles Hope, a century or so later. It includes the radical attempt by William Cullen to introduce 'philosophical chemistry' as a counterpart to Newton's natural philosophy, and Joseph Black's eventual acceptance of Lavoisier's oxygen theory. This is a fascinating study of the period when Edinburgh's chemistry literacy was higher than at any other time.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Format Hardback
Imprint Birlinn Limited
Publication Date 7 Sep 2015
ISBN 9781906566869
Number of Pages 224

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Press Reviews

'Evokes the reality of the development and operation of an instiution in which teachers encouraged of hindered their successors, took up or rejected new ideas, and in which dedicated students looked at their professors with both admiration and scepticism. The portrait is convincing, and splendidly varied'

'A real addition to the history of the University of Edinburgh and to the history of the development of chemistry in Scotland'

'The volume in its entirety makes for excellent reading. The section on the material legacy is a welcome addition and will, I hope, stimulate further research. Together with Anderson's introduction and Chang's lucid afterword, Cradle of Chemistry offers a coherent and insightful account of the early years of chemistry at the University of Edinburgh'