Lectures and Correspondence of Professor Robert Whytt (1714-1766)

Scope and Content

The material is composed of: lectures on pathology, probably by Professor Whytt, 1764; preparatory notes for lectures; and, a drawing of Whytt, by J. Lee, 1800.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Whytt was born in Edinburgh on 6 September 1714. He studied at St. Andrews University where he was awarded an M.A. in 1730, then he studied medicine at Edinburgh University. In 1734 he went to London to study and also attended lectures in Paris and Leiden. In 1736 he took the degree of M.D. at Rheims and in 1737 received a similar one from St. Andrews. In 1738 he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and began practicing as a physician. In 1747, Whytt was appointed Professor of the Theory of Medicine at Edinburgh University, and in 1756 he also gave lectures on chemistry in place of Professor John Rutherford (1695-1779). His publications include On the virtues of lime-water in the cure of stone (1743), On the vital and other involuntary motions of animals (1751), and On nervous, hypochondriac, or hysteric diseases, to which are prefixed some remarks on the sympathy of the nerves (1764). In 1761 he was made the first Physician to the King in Scotland, and in 1763 he was elected President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Professor Robert Whytt died in Edinburgh on 15 April 1766.

Access Information

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


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol. 21. Whichcord-Zuylstein. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1909.

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.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various other references to Whytt related material in the Laing Collection and elsewhere (check the Indexes for more details): a note on diseases as they affect population, at La.II.96/1; autograph, at La.II.194; experiments with limewater for medical use mentioned in a letter of Professor J. Black, 1752, at Gen. 874/V/6; a letter from Mary Melville, 1757, at Gen. 4.98/1, ff. 228-229; a letter from General Melville, 1753-1754, at Dc.4.98/1, ff.226-227; a letter from George, surname unclear, 1753, at Dc.4.98/1, ff.232-233; letter from L. Chalmers, at Dc.4.98/1, ff.230-231; and, a letter from F. Boissier de Sauvages de la Croix, Professor of Medicine at Montpelier, praising Whytt's Essay on the vital motions ... of animals, at Gen. 863/2.

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: papers including unpublished lectures, case reports and prescriptions, Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine, Ref. MSS 6858-6880; correspondence, casebook and lecture notes, 1749-1765, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Ref. Whytt NRA 16015 Coll of Physicians; and letters (15) to J Oswald, 1754-1766, Private, NRA 21704 Oswald.

Corporate Names