In 1865 the Great Hall was enlarged by the architect David Bryce, who ordered the roundel portraits from George MacCallum. MacCallum was paid four pounds per profile, a total of £60 for the set of 15 ‘Heads with wreaths’.

The portraits appear along the frieze in the Great Hall. Each of the figures in the roundel portraits is surrounded by a laurel wreath which is both an aesthetic, decorative feature, and a classical symbol which emphasises the importance of the figure depicted in the portrait.

In addition to this profile the College also possesses a portrait of Cullen (attributed to William Cochran). Comparing these two works, the differences between plaster profiles and painted portraits are particularly evident. Undoubtedly oil painting allows for greater expression and detail, while, in this case, plaster offers a more limited medium and the artist must concentrate on the most striking and significant details of their subject.

William Cullen (1710 – 1790)

In 1740 Cullen received his MD at the University of Glasgow and by 1746 he was teaching at the university, with a particular interest in chemistry. In 1756 Cullen began his career at the University of Edinburgh where he continued his successful academic career until 1789.

Cullen was a significant figure in the Scottish Enlightenment and was committed to the study of science. He is probably best known for introducing the term ‘neurosis’ into the medical field, a term which, for him, incorporated problems ranging from melancholy and dementia to asthma and diabetes.

As a practising physician Cullen offered consultations to patients both face-to-face and by post. By 1773 Cullen was conducting between 150 and 200 postal consultations per annum. He corresponded with patients from the continent, Maderia and the United States, although the majority of his patients tended to come from within the British Isles. As well as retaining the letters from his patients Cullen also retained copies of his responses and this collection of letters is now in the College’s archive, providing a fascinating historical insight into the history of medical practice.