Papers of Archibald Pitcairne (1652-1713)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-457
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
      English, and Latin.
  • Physical Description
      1 box, 10 miscellaneous manuscript documents
  • Location
      Dc.1.61/191; Dc.1.62; Dc.4.101-103 Pitcairne; De.7.69; Df.1.33/2

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of: a volume of papers containing medical prescriptions, notes on medical matters, correspondence, 1701-1708, and entitled Praxeos Pitcairnianae specimina and which also includes letters to Gregory, 1700-1708; Commentarius in partem solutionis problematic de inventoribus A. Pitcairnii 1688 edite a D. Gregorio Oxoniae 27 June 1692 et D.J.Wallisio G.P.S. tradita 30 Junii 1692; poems in Latin, 1708, 1712, and undated; Latin verses, Georgius Buchananus Gualtero Dannistono; and, manuscript fragments.

Administrative / Biographical History

Archibald Pitcairne was born in Edinburgh on 25 December 1652. He was educated in Dalkeith and then from 1668 studied at Edinburgh University from which he graduated with the degree of M.A. in 1671. Although it was intended that he enter the Church, Pitcairne went on to study law in Edinburgh and Paris, and in the latter city he became interested in medicine. On his return to Edinburgh, and as a friend of Dr. David Gregory (1661-1708), he studied mathematics, though medicine wasn't forgotten. Indeed, in 1675 he resumed his medical studies in Paris and Rheims, the latter University awarding him the degree of M.D. On his return to Edinburgh he began practice as a physician and was one of the founder members of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Sympathetic to the Jacobite cause, Pitcairne had to leave Scotland in order to succeed in his profession and in 1692 he was appointed to the Chair of Physic at Leiden University. He returned to Edinburgh in 1693 but became embroiled in a catalogue of controversies and disagreements which were probably politically motivated, although because he was also known to mock the Church, there may have been another reason for the negative stand towards him. In 1699 though he was awarded the degree of M.D. from Aberdeen University, and in 1701 he was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. His publications include Solutio problematic de historicis; seu de inventoribus dissertatio (1688), De sanguinis circulatione in animalibus genitis et non genitis (1693), Dissertatio de curatione febrium (1695), Dissertatio de legibus historiae naturalis (1696), Epistola Archimedis ad regem Gelonem Albae Graecae, reperta anno aerae Christianae 1688 and numerous satirical verses on the Church, and latin verses. Archibald Pitcairne died in Edinburgh on 20 October 1713.

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. 15. Owens-Pockrich. 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 references to Pitcairne related material in the Laing Collection (check the Indexes for more details): letter to Viscountess Stormont, 1664, at La.II.554; letter from Thomas Bower, Aberdeen, 1710, at La.III.535; The Assemblie, or Scottish Reformation, a comedy, at La.III.799; General Assembly, a comedy, at La.III.456; The Wigg comedy at La.III.798; poems in Latin, at La.III.629; Epistola Archimedis ad regem Gelonem Albae Graecae reperta anno aerae Christianiae, 1688. at La.II.36; Latin verses, In Jacobum 2dum Britanniae regem, and Upon the anniversary of the Pretender's birthday, and In Maii 29 and Juni 10, 1712, and Ad G. Burnet epsicop. salisburensem, at La.II.89, f.251; burlesque by Dr. Brown of Pitcairne's elegy on Gregory, at La.II.89, f.281; four satirical poems, 1711, at La.II.358/5; Mention in a letter from Tytler to Chalmers, at La.II.453/2; notes by Chalmers, at La.II.451/1; notes on his poems at La.III.353; an elegy on his death, at La.IV.17; and, notices at La.IV.17. There is also: material at S.32.65; collection of mathematical and other papers by James Gregory (1638-1675) and David Gregory (1661-1708) with items by or referring to Pitcairne, at Dc.1.61; mention of Pitcairne in letters from Sibbald to Sloan, at Dc.8.35.

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: textbook of medicine, Society of Antiquaries of London, Ref. MS 25, see P. J. Willetts, Manuscripts in the Society of Antiquaries of London (2000); lecture notes, Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine, Ref. MS 100, and MS of The Assemblie, Ref. MS 3916; notes, British Library, Manuscript Collections, Ref. Sloane MSS 2582, 3198; lecture notes, 1712, University of British Columbia, Woodward Biomedical Library; poems, Glasgow University Library, Special Collections Department, Ref. MS Ferguson 108; letters, 1696-1711, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. MSS 1393, 1423; letters, 1704-1709, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD205/Portfolio 4, and letters to Earl of Mar, 1707, Ref. GD124 NRA 32022 Erskine.