Papers of Sir Robert Carswell (1793-1857)

Scope and Content

The papers contain descriptions of medical cases from around 1817 to 1823 with some later additions, and notes of medical cases made in France (his case books) along with a few letters and other miscellaneous papers, 1822 to 1825.

Administrative / Biographical History

The physician and pathologist Sir Robert Carswell was born in Paisley on 3 February 1793. He studied medicine at Glasgow University. As a student he showed a talent for anatomical drawing and illustrating, and went to the hospitals of Paris and Lyons to pursue this in 1822. On his return to Scotland he took the degree of M.D. at Marischall College, Aberdeen, in 1826. He then returned to Paris to resume studies there. In 1828, Carswell was nominated as Professor of Pathological Anatomy at University College, London, but he remained in France until the completion of a commission for 2,000 water-colour drawings of diseased structures. When he came to London to take up his post, he was also appointed as a Physician to the University College Hospital. He did immediately take up this practice, but involved himself in the preparation of a huge work on pathological anatomy - the Illustrations of the elementary forms of disease (1837). Prior to that, in 1836, Carswell went into private practice, and in 1840 he resigned his professorship and accepted the postion of physician to Leopold I, King of the Belgians, and lived at Laeken the home of the Belgian royal family. For his services to Louis-Philippe of France when in exile in Britain, Carswell was knighted in July 1850 by Queen Victoria. Sir Robert Carswell died on 15 June 1857.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Notes and case books acquired June 1962, Accession nos. E62.40 and E62.41.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Stephen, Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol. 3. Brown-Chalonier. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Material

The UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: anatomical drawings and notes, 1827-1838, London University, University College London (UCL), Manuscripts Room, Ref. Clin Sci MS/unof/1.