The Edinburgh Medical School retained its place as one of the most prestigious in the world during the 19th century.
Midwifery was finally admitted as an essential part of the compulsory medical curriculum. James Young Simpson revolutionised obstetric and surgical practice with the introduction of chloroform anaesthesia in 1847.
There were enormous advances in surgery, under great names such as Robert Liston, James Syme and Joseph Lister, particularly with Lister’s introduction of antiseptic and aseptic techniques in the 1870s.
Edinburgh also played a part in the battle for admission of women into medicine with the reluctant acceptance of Sophia Jex Blake to some classes in 1869, though the eventual concession of full equality with men was not achieved till 1889.
By the 1860s the development of Edinburgh medicine was constrained by its existing premises, with the Royal Infirmary in ageing buildings around Infirmary Street and the Medical Faculty still squeezed into the University quadrangle on South Bridge (now known as Old College).
A fine new building at Lauriston Place was finished in 1880. New premises were also required for the Medical Faculty as modern teaching demanded proper facilities for scientific research and practical laboratories. A site was selected just across from the new Royal Infirmary and a new Medical School was opened in 1884.
This article was published on Feb 23, 2009