Cullen, William


Cullen, William
born April 15, 1710, Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scot.
died Feb. 5, 1790, Kirknewton, near Edinburgh

Scottish physician and professor.

One of the first to teach in English rather than Latin, he was celebrated for his clinical lectures, which he gave in the infirmary from his own notes instead of a text. He taught that life was a function of nervous energy and that muscle was a continuation of nerve. His influential classification of disease included febrile diseases, nervous diseases, diseases produced by bad bodily habits, and local diseases.

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▪ Scottish physician and professor
born April 15, 1710, Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scot.
died Feb. 5, 1790, Kirknewton, near Edinburgh

      Scottish physician and professor of medicine, best known for his innovative teaching methods.

      After attending the University of Glasgow and the new medical school at Edinburgh, Cullen returned to Hamilton. He spent eight years in private clinical practice, attending without fee those too poor to afford his services. In 1740 he received his M.D. from Glasgow and several years later obtained permission to deliver a series of independent lectures on chemistry and medicine, the first to be offered in Great Britain. He was elected to the chair of medicine at Glasgow in 1751. In 1755 Cullen returned to the University of Edinburgh, where he was later appointed to the chair of the institutes (theory) of medicine and eventually became sole professor of medicine, the position he held until shortly before his death.

      Cullen taught that life was a function of nervous energy and that muscle was a continuation of nerve. He organized an influential classification of disease (human disease) (nosology) consisting of four major divisions: pyrexiae, or febrile diseases; neuroses, or nervous diseases; cachexiae, diseases produced by bad bodily habits; and locales, or local diseases. He was most famous, however, for his innovative teaching methods and forceful, inspiring lectures, which drew medical students to Edinburgh from throughout the English-speaking world. He was one of the first to teach in English rather than in Latin, and he delivered his clinical lectures in the infirmary, lecturing not from a text but from his own notes. His First Lines of the Practice of Physic (1777) was widely used as a textbook in Britain and the United States.

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Universalium. 2010.

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