Robert Dobson

Scope and Content

These 37 manuscripts, all originating from Dobson's time as a student at Edinburgh University in the late 18th century, give a good insight into the content and nature of medical education at a time when Edinburgh was one of the foremost centres of medical teaching in Europe. At this time there were no officially accepted medical lectures being given in Manchester, or indeed the rest of England outside of London, and Dobson's experience and the knowledge he brought back to the North West would have been in line with the experiences of many other young medical men.

The core subjects of medical training are represented in Dobson's notes, including institutes of medicine (medical theory), the materia medica, chemistry, botany, anatomy, clinical lectures, and midwifery. In addition the lectures of some of Edinburgh's most famous medical lecturers such as, William Cullen (1710-1790), John Gregory (1724-1773), Joseph Black (1728-1799), Thomas Young (c.1725-1783), Andrew Duncan (1744-1828) and Alexander Monro (1733-1817), are represented and are of interest in their own right.

One volume of midwifery lecture notes (MMM/1/4/2) also contains a number of lectures on philosophy demonstrating the broader education available to medical students. Included in the rear of the final volume of clinical lectures (MMM/1/3/6) there is also record of Dobson's early clinical practice shortly after qualifying and following his return to Lancashire.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Dobson commenced his medical studies in Edinburgh in 1768 and remained there for three years, graduating with an M.D. on 23 January 1771. During his time in Edinburgh he studied under some of the foremost physicians and surgeons of the time, and submitted the work 'De Amenorrhoea' as his doctoral dissertation. Towards the end of his studies on 1 December 1770 he was admitted as a member of the Medical Society of Edinburgh.

Following his studies he is known to have established himself in practice in Kirkham, Lancashire, where it is believed he remained for the rest of his professional life. One manuscript (MMM/1/3/6) which in part describes patients treated by him shows that he was practicing in Lancashire by September 1771. The only work he is known to have published other than his doctoral dissertation was entitled 'A Case of a Very Obstinate Ophthalmia, Successfully Treated by an Emetic, and the Consequent Use of the Peruvian Bark', published in Medical and Philosophical Commentaries by a Society in Edinburgh, Volume Third, in 1775.

Unfortunately little else is known about the life of Robert Dobson or how his manuscripts came to form part of the Manchester Medical Society's Library. We do, however, know that his manuscripts were used by the Society's first president, John Hull (1761-1843), who made his own shorthand copies of some of Dobson's lecture notes.


  • MMM/1/1 - Lectures of William Cullen
  • MMM/1/2 - Lectures of John Gregory
  • MMM/1/3 - Clinical Lectures
  • MMM/1/4 - Lectures of Thomas Young
  • MMM/1/5 - Lectures of Alexander Monro secundus
  • MMM/1/6 - Assorted therapeutic, botany, and anatomy lectures
  • MMM/1/7 - Lectures of Francis Home
  • MMM/1/8 - Lectures of Joseph Black
  • MMM/1/9 - Doctoral Dissertation
  • MMM/1/10 - Student Exercise Book


University of Edinburgh, Special Collections 'Students of Medicine, 1762-1826' . Robert Dobson, 'A case of very obstinate ophthalmia, successfully treated by an emetic, and the consequent use of the Peruvian bark' Medical and Philosophical Commentaries by a Society of Edinburgh, Volume Third, Part 1 (London: J Murray, 1775) pp.411-418.The Medical Register for the Year 1783, London 1783 p.138.