Lectures and Papers of Professor John Rutherford (1695-1779)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection is comprised of: notes of clinical lectures, 1749-1750, 1749-1753, 1749-1758, 1752-1755, and undated, at Dc.10.28, Dc.5.12, Dc3.90-92, Dc.3.111, and Gen. 72; notes of lectures on clinical medicine, 1755-1756, at Gen. 2009; notes of clinical lectures in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, 1749-1758, at Dc.3.111; clinical lectures by Professor Rutherford and Alexander Monro, primus, 1762, at Mic.M.1139; and, minutes of the professors of medicine, and partners of the chemical laboratory, in Edinburgh (Professor John Rutherford, Professor Andrew St. Clair, Professor John Innes, and Professor Andrew Plummer) 1731-134, at Gen. 1959. There is also a volume of notes of lectures from 1771, at E92.8.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Rutherford was born on 1 August 1695 in Yarrow, Selkirkshire. He was educated in Selkirk and studied at Edinburgh University, 1709-1710, before being apprenticed to the surgeon Alexander Nesbit with whom he remained until 1716. A visit to London followed, with attendance at various hospitals and surgical and anatomical lectures. He then went to Leyden which had become famous through the medical teaching of Hermann Boerhaave (1668-1738). At Rheims, in France, in 1719, Rutherford obtained the degree of M.D. and then spent some time in Paris before returning to Britain. He settled in Edinburgh in 1721 and started, with partners Andrew St. Clair, John Innes, and Andrew Plummer, a laboratory for the preparation of compound medicines. They also taught chemistry. Each became Professors at Edinburgh University, Rutherford being appointed to the Chair of the Practice of Medicine in 1726. In 1748 Rutherford was given permission to deliver a course of clinical lectures in the Royal Infirmary. These proved to be popular, and so began the teaching relationship between the University and the Royal Infirmary which gave both a pre-eminence. Rutherford delivered his University lectures in Latin until 1765, when he resigned to be succeeded by Dr. John Gregory (1724-1773). Professor John Rutherford died in 1779 and was buried in the city's Greyfriars Churchyard on 10 March 1779. He was a grandfather of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), and was the father of Professor Daniel Rutherford (1749-1819), physician and botanist.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Acquisition Information

Clinical lectures received from Mrs. Maclean, 1931. Boerhaave lectures purchased November 1972, Accession no. E72.57. Minutes purchased in 1974, Accession no. E74.23. Other notes purchased November 1976, Accession no. E76.49. Volume of lectures purchased February 1992, Accession no. E92.8.


The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.17. Robinson-Sheares. 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.

Related Material

Edinburgh University Library holds a collection of lectures taken down by John Firth including lectures on Boerhaave's Aphorismi de cognoscendis et curandis morbis, 1737-1738, in Latin, at Gen. 1928. The local Indexes show other references to Rutherford related material (check the Indexes for more details): letters in the Laing Collection (La.II.234 and La.II.91). In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: lecture notes, ca. 1749, at Canada's McGill University, Osler Library; c1750-51: case and lecture notes, ca. 1750-51, at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Ref. Rutherford NRA 16015 Coll of Physicians; transcripts of clinical lectures, 1749, Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine, Ref. MS 6888; and, 1750-56: clinical lectures at Royal Infirmary, 1750-56, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Ref. RCPSG NRA 22540 Physicians Glasgow.


Corporate Names