Papers of the Department of Anatomy, University of Aberdeen

Scope and Content

This deposit includes departmental records of Aberdeen University Department of Anatomy, together with a small collection of papers of, or relating to, members of staff, and records of Aberdeen University Anatomical and Anthropological Society.

Departmental records include students' registers, 1892 - 1939 (2 vols.); and Anthropological Laboratory Registers of Observations, 1896 - 1937 (8 vols.), continued in loose cards from c 1939 - c 1971 (with gaps) (1 large box). The anthropological observations relate principally to Aberdeen University medical students; though many of those in the earliest register are of persons serving in the police force.

Personal papers of, and relating to, departmental staff include photographs of exhibition and dissection of the Tay whale (including photographs of Sir John Struthers, and his assistants, Robert Slessor, Robert Gibb, and James Moir measuring the whale) (1 folder); a printed copy of Professor Robert W. Reid's biography of Sir William MacGregor (1846 - 1919), Governor of Queensland, Australia, published as Sir William MacGregor (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1919), with related papers of Professor Reid (including correspondence from Sir William MacGregor's widow, Mary MacGregor, Berwickshire; his daughter, Helen Faden-MacGregor, Switzerland; William Watt, Strathdon Manse; Sir Ronald Ross, editor of Science Progress; and others; photographs; notes and other misc. papers) (1 folder); miscellaneous papers of and re. Professor Alexander Low, including reprints of articles, notes and original photographs of various skeletal and beaker finds (1 box file); and a small collection of Professor Robert Lockhart's anthropometrical observation cards, principally relating to persons attending Aberdeen hospitals, c 1930s - c 1960s (1 file).

The records of Aberdeen University Anatomical and Anthropological Society (est. 1912), include minutes, 1912 - 1963 (6 vols.), photographs of founders, and miscellaneous papers.

There is, additionally, a volume containing pressed plant specimens of Artic Flora, collected by Dr Walker, surgeon and naturalist on board the yacht, Fox, during the expedition of Sir Francis McClintock, R.N., in search of Sir John Franklin 1857 - 58 - 59. At the end of this voyage, the plants collected by Dr Walker were apparently placed in the hands of Joseph Dalton Hooker, with related notes on prevailing environmental conditions. A printed report of his findings, An account of the plants collected by Dr. Walker in Greenland and Artic [sic] America during the expedition of Sir Francis M'Clintock was subsequently prepared by Hooker, and published in Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society. Botany, 5 (1861). It seems likely - though presently, unconfirmed - that this volume of specimens once formed part of the collection placed in Hooker's care. It was owned at one time by Alexander Thomson of Banchory-Devenick (1792-1868), a graduate of Marischal College (MA 1816, LLD 1855), and benefactor of the University. No further details regarding provenance of the volume, or regarding Dr Walker, have been established at this time.

Administrative / Biographical History

From 1818 - 1839 King's College and Marischal College operated a Joint Medical School in Aberdeen, with a dedicated Lecturer in Anatomy. The School was dissolved in 1839 owing to a disagreement regarding its original terms of agreement, and individual training courses in the subject were pursued by the 2 colleges until their union in 1860. A Department of Anatomy was subsequently established at the newly formed University of Aberdeen in 1860. In 1990 it joined with the departments of Pharmacology and Physiology to create a new School of Biomedical Sciences.

Marischal College had established Aberdeen's first Chair in Anatomy after dissolution of the Joint Medical School in 1839, to which Allen Thomson, well-known histologist and embryologist was appointed, 1839 - 1841. His successor, Professor Jardine Lizars, 1841 - 1860 became first Chair of Anatomy in Aberdeen University, 1860 - 1863. He was succeeded by Sir John Struthers (1823 - 1899), 1863 - 1889, made famous for his enthusiasm in using comparative animal material in his teaching presentations (most notably, the Tay Whale , a huge sperm whale, beached on the Scottish coast at Dundee), and under whom the first Regius Chair of Anatomy was instituted; Robert W. Reid, 1889 - 1925, founder of Aberdeen Anthropological Museum (now Marischal Museum), who achieved prominence through the discovery of 'Reid's Base Line'; Alexander Low, 1925 - 1938, a modest man who made important contributions to understanding the embryological development of the mandible, the skeletal remains of Neolithic and bronze age skeletons and to human anthropometry (his work in this field laying the foundations for the Aberdeen Growth Study of 1956); Robert Lockhart, 1938 - 1964, an outstanding teacher of Anatomy and author (with Gilbert F. Hamilton and Forest William Fyfe) of the much re-published textbook, Anatomy of the Human Body (London: Faber, 1959); David Sinclair, 1964 - 1977, who made important contributions to curricular development of the Anatomical sciences in Aberdeen; and E. John Clegg, 1977 - 1993, last Regius Professor of Anatomy, and an acknowledged authority on the historical demography of isolated populations.


None observed - listing in process

Access Information

Access restrictions apply to the anthropometric records deposited in this collection. For further details please seek assistance from Reading Room staff (e-mail:

Acquisition Information

Date and source not recorded - transferred to Special Libraries and Archives c 1995 - 96

Other Finding Aids

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online

Alternative Form Available

No copies known

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

This material remained in the Department of Anatomy prior to its deposit in Special Libraries and Archives.


No accruals expected

Related Material

Papers of Professor Alexander Low, relating to his research on human growth, including original record cards and copies of Growth of Children (Aberdeen: University of Aberdeen, 1952), and J.M. Tanner and others, Aberdeen Growth Study: I, Archives of Disease in Childhood, 3: 159 (1956) (GB 231 MS 2629).

Papers of Robert Douglas Lockhart, (1894 - 1987), Professor of Anatomy, University of Aberdeen (GB 231 MS 3270).


Joseph Dalton Hooker, An account of the plants collected by Dr. Walker in Greenland and Artic [sic] America during the expedition of Sir Francis M'Clintock, Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society. Botany, 5 (1861).

Additional Information

This material is original