The College has been awarded a grant by the Wellcome Trust to digitise the 99 volumes which comprise the patient records of Andrew Duncan Senior (1744-1828). These were created during his management of the Royal Public Dispensary, which was established in 1776 and was located in the Old Town of Edinburgh.

Other than a short-lived dispensary established by the College itself (which was then subsumed into the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh), this was the first public dispensary in Scotland.

It provided free medical advice and treatment to the poor of Edinburgh, including to those excluded from the infirmary by their rules and financial constraints.

The dispensary also housed Duncan's private teaching practice and the fact he compiled records for this purpose explains in part why this is such an unusually rich source. While many patient records of other organisations for the period contain very basic information, these volumes (comprising around 5000 individual entries) contain a wide range of detail on the occupation, family life and diagnoses of the patients.

Duncan was at the forefront of the public health movement in Edinburgh and was also key in the establishment of the city's first public asylum and in establishing the position of Professor of Medical Jurisprudence and Medical Police (the first of its kind in Britain), which brought the topic of public health into the university.

This online resource will compliment the College's previous digitisation project (carried out in collaboration with the University of Glasgow) which made available online the consultation letters of eighteenth century physician William Cullen.

While that provided insight into the medical experience of the wealthier elite, this will provide the alternative perspective - the experience of the less well-off, those who could not afford to pay for their medical treatment.

 

The archives reference for this collection is DEP/DUA/1.

If you'd like to find out more, you can email us at library@rcpe.ac.uk

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