Category Archives: Uncategorized

Welcome to the new Blog

We are in the process of moving our blog in-house.  Although we’ve imported all the post titles, we still need to copy over the detail. Once we have finished the migration tasks, we will start blogging again.  In the meantime you can find the old blog at

Update, 4th July – blog content successfully migrated. New blog posts will appear here soon.

Henry Duncan Littlejohn notebook found

What connects Edinburgh, forensic medicine, public health and Sherlock Holmes? Many people would be tempted to say ‘Joseph Bell’, although they would probably wonder where public health fitted in. The answer is in fact ‘Henry Duncan Littlejohn’.

Born in 1826, the son of a prosperous merchant, Littlejohn was also credited by Conan Doyle as having been an influence. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1847 and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1854.  The same year saw him take up the position with Edinburgh Town Council as Police Surgeon. In 1862 he was appointed Edinburgh’s first Medical Officer of Health. The work he undertook had a significant impact on reducing the frequency of outbreaks of smallpox and typhus.

He was President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (1875-6), of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Edinburgh (1883-5), and of the Institute of Public Health (1893). Awarded an honorary degree by the University of Edinburgh in 1893, he was knighted two years later.

Littlejohn was appointed to the Chair of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of Edinburgh in 1897. In the context of that post, a series of his notebooks were kept by his successors within the departmental records of the Forensic Medicine department. However when these arrived in the University Archives volume “Wounds II” was noted as being absent. Thanks to the vigilance of a member of academic staff, this missing volume has now been found and transferred to us.

We are thrilled to be able to reunite this volume with the others. the series now runs to 6 volumes in total:

  1. Infanticide I
  2. Infanticide II
  3. Poisons III
  4. Poisons IV
  5. Wounds I
  6. Wounds II

Enclosed in the third volume are (1) Examination script and (2) Letter about ‘meat pies’ from a student of Henry Duncan Littlejohn. Enclosed in the fourth volume is booklet A Case of Strychnia Poisoning by J. Allan Gray, Medical Officer of Health, Leith.

The ‘new’ volume is of a similar format to the others with notes, news cuttings and loose enclosures.

Neil Armstrong

In memory of astronaut Neil Armstrong, we are displaying the award by the University of Edinburgh to him of Doctor Honoris Causa. The ceremony took place a the British Embasy in Washington on 13 June 2008.

We hold the certificate (shown here) in the University Archives.

University Mace stolen – reward offered!

On the night betwixt the 29th/30th October 1787 the door of the Library was broken open by thieves and the University Mace was stolen from the press where it was usually deposited. The Magistrates offered a reward of ten Guineas for the discovery of the Delinquents.

So reads the inset entered between the College minutes for 11th September and 3rd December 1787.

The University would appear to have been without a mace until 1789. William Creech presented the College with a new one at the meeting of 2nd October that year. At the same meeting it was reported that the University been granted Arms by the Lord Lyon and that a new seal was to be made, the use of one of the city’s seals being “inconvenient and unsuitable to the dignity of the University”.

Early Veterinary students

Although our registers of students who attended the Edinburgh / Royal Dick Veterinary College only begin in the 1860s, the college itself was established in 1823. Although, unlike the University, there is no easily-identifiable published list of early students, one does in fact exist. Included in William Dick’s ‘Occasional Papers’ (published 1869) is a list of all the graduates.

The list gives their name, year of graduation and place of residence. Cornell University have a digitised copy of the entire publication at

Crowd Control

The following letter was sent, we think to Prof T. C. Hope, Professor of Chemistry, by a student in 1844. Student misbehaviour is nothing new!

Dear Sir,

You cannot but have observed, and been annoyed, at the constant disorderly contact of some of the young gentleman of your class. You have hitherto been too forbearing to take any notice of it but I trust you will allow me to prefer the request (in which I am sure the majority of my fellow students join) that you would be so kind as to endeavour, by some means or other, to put a stop to a recurrence of it for to say nothing of the great annoyance it must be to yourself.

I am sure you will agree that it really is “trop mal” that those who are anxious to pay attention to the Lectures should be prevented from doing so by the few juveniles who perch themselves on the upper seats for no earthly purpose but childishly amuse themselves during the whole Lecture by throwing paper balls and creating a disturbance to the no small annoyance of their more peaceable neighbours – Trusting you will excuse this communication.

Yours with the greatest of respect,

One of your Class

Feb’y 15th 1844

Jobs for the girls

A recent enquiry threw light on the richness of information contained in the minutes of Library Committee. The enquiry itself related to Marjory Foljambe Hall, daughter of Hubert Hall, Assistant Keeper of the Public Record Office in London, who was meant to have been employed circa 1917/1918 as a Librarian at the University of Edinburgh.

As she was not listed in the University Calendar, the post must have been below that of Assistant Librarian. There was a chance that the appointment would have been noted at Library Committee, but it was not expected that there would be much detail.

On locating the relevant minute however it was found that the section dealing with Miss Hall’s appointment occupied almost a full page, giving information both on her and the method by which she was appointed.

A vacancy had occurred due the departure of a member of cataloguing staff to get married. At the suggestion of Prof. Peter Hume Brown, the Librarian, Frank Carr Nicholson, wrote to Hubert Hall on the basis that he was aware Hall’s daughter was looking for a post. The responses received from both Hubert and Marjory were read before the committee. The minutes note:

“It appeared from these documents that Miss Hall had done a considerable amount of work at the Record Office and for the Royal Historical Society, and that she had gone through a course of Library training, palaeography etc. The Committee were of the opinion that her qualifications were exceptionally good.”

She was at a salary of seven pounds per month plus War bonus of ten pounds per annum. Unfortunately her contract was terminated at the end of May 1918, following a decision to suspend indefinitely the printing of the Library Catalogue.

The enquirer informed us that Marjory went on to work at the National Library of Wales before becoming a nun.

[University of Edinburgh Library Committee, Ref: EUA IN1/COM/L1]

What’s in a Diploma?

We often get enquiries about what individual courses comprised. From 1858, the annual University Calendar is usually the best source of information on this. For example, the Diploma in Psychiatry in 1936 is summarised as follows:

The Diploma consisted of 325 hours of course time, broken into two parts.

Part 1:

1) Anatomy and the Nervous System (20 hours), Prof. Brash & Demonstrators
2) Physiology of the Nervous System (20 hours), Prof. de Burgh Daly & Lecturers
3) Psychology and Experimental Psychology (50 hours), Prof. Drever

Part 2:

1) Neuro-Pathology and Serological Methods (40 hours), Prof. Drennan & Dr. Biggart, lecturer
2) Clinical Neurology (80 hours), Prof. Bramwell
3) Clinical Psychiarty (115 hours), Prof. Henderson

The 31 Club

The 31 club was a small group formed by the Honours Classics graduates at the University in 1931, to “perpetuate friendships made by the members while they were Classical students at Edinburgh University”. They first met in May 1931 and thereafter regularly for the next four years.

A small reunion in 1966 is next minuted, then 1991. By the time of the meeting in 1991, six ‘survivors’ are named, including the late Prof. William Montgomery Watt (1909-2006).

We have just taken custody of the archives of the club.

My ancestor was at Moray House?

We get a lot of enquiries from individuals who know or think that their ancestor did some teacher training at Moray House. The history of teacher training and of Moray House is quite complex, one of various small institutions merging and then merging again before eventually becoming part of the University. Depending on the time period, the phrase ‘Moray House’ can be misleading.

Helpfully there is an easy to read online history of all of this, compiled by a former senior academic and administrator from Moray House. This provides some extremely useful background reading which will help you contextualise any enquiry you might wish to send us.

A History of Professional Training at Moray House