Biography of William Cullen
William Cullen (1710-1790) was the University's first lecturer in Chemistry and subsequently Regius Professor of Practice of Medicine from 1751 to 1755.
Born in Hamilton, Cullen studied Arts at the University but chose a career in Medicine. After gaining experience in London and at sea as a surgeon, he returned to practice in Scotland and he was awarded an MD by the University in 1740. In 1744 he began offering extra-mural lectures in Glasgow on the theory and practice of physic and became a lecturer in Medicine at the University two years later. He also offered a course in Chemistry and he continued to give Chemistry lectures after his appointment to the Chair of Medicine in 1751.
Cullen was a popular teacher whose students included Joseph Black, who succeeded him as a lecturer in Chemistry. He advocated and practiced practical scientific experimentation and research and became a friend of Adam Smith and other key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment. His teaching and publications on the practice of medicine were highly influential in the United Kingdom and America.
Cullen left Glasgow in 1755 to become Professor of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. He was appointed Professor of the Institutes of Medicine there in 1766 and in 1773 moved to the chair of Practice of Physic.