The Lectureship in Chemistry and the Chemical Laboratory, University of Glasgow, 1747–1818

  • David V. Fenby


The standard method of teaching chemistry, from its emergence as a university discipline in the seventeenth century until the early nineteenth century, was the lecture accompanied by lecture demonstrations. This approach was related to changes that had taken place in medical education. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, few universities had properly functioning medical faculties, the only important centre outside Italy being that at Montpellier. By the end of the eighteenth century, most European countries had at least one reputable medical faculty. This growth in university medical education was accompanied by an increasing awareness of the value of practical tuition: the first physic gardens were established at Pisa and Padua in the mid-sixteenth century; at the same time, bedside teaching was inaugurated at Padua; the first permanent anatomical theatres were set up at Padua and Ley den at the end of the sixteenth century. The expansion in practical medical education was particularly pronounced during the first decades of the eighteenth century; in this, the medical faculty at Leyden, with Herman Boerhaave (1668–1738) as its outstanding luminary, was preeminent. Lindeboom has summarized the situation as follows:

…before Boerhaave’s appearance practical medicine was in a state of confusion and often not more than a precarious empiricism. The basic sciences of physics and chemistry were not yet applied to medicine in a well-balanced way, and they often gave rise to unfruitful speculation. Knowledge of anatomy and pathology was only poorly integrated into medicine; pathology received little attention and was without a comprehensive system. Clinical medicine was not well developed, and good bedside teaching was exceedingly rare. Moreover there was an obvious lack of reliable textbooks.1


Medical Education Eighteenth Century Chemical Laboratory Sixteenth Century Early Nineteenth Century 
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© The editor and the contributors 1989

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  • David V. Fenby

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