History and Campus Developments

Opening of Grant Institute 1932 - Platform Party

Opening of the Grant Institute, January 1932


Science has been studied at Edinburgh since the University was established as the 'Tounis College' in 1583.

From Natural Philosophy to Science and Engineering

In the sixteenth century science was taught as 'natural philosophy'.

The seventeenth century saw the institution of the University Chairs of Mathematics and Botany, followed the next century by Chairs of Natural History, Astronomy, Chemistry and Agriculture.

During the eighteenth century, the University was a key contributor to the Scottish Enlightenment and it educated many of the leading scientists of the time.

It was Edinburgh's professors who took a leading part in the formation of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1783. In 1785, Joseph Black, Professor of Chemistry and discoverer of carbon dioxide, founded the world's first Chemical Society.

The nineteenth century was a time of huge advances in scientific thinking and technological development. The first named degrees of Bachelor and Doctor of Science were instituted in 1864, and a separate 'Faculty of Science' was created in 1893 after three centuries of scientific advances at Edinburgh. Chairs in Engineering and Geology were also created.

In 1991 the Faculty of Science was renamed the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and in 2002 we became the College of Science and Engineering, one of three Colleges making up the University of Edinburgh.

(With thanks to Ronald M Birse.)

Campus Developments

The King's Buildings site, which houses the majority of the College's buildings, takes its name from King George V who laid the foundation stone of the first building in 1920.

Today the College continues to expand, with the construction of new buildings and refurbishment of old ones to house new research laboratories and teaching accommodation.

The latest developments form part of a plan called the "King's Buildings Planning Framework" which sets out the long term vision for campus redevelopment and was formally approved by the City of Edinburgh Council in February 2009.

KB Realm Plan

The King's Buildings Public Realm plan and landscape programme was developed to support the "King's Buildings Planning Framework". The Public Realm sets out our vision for the campus.

Campus Vision

Investment in landscape and public realm provides an attractive, well connected and fully accessible environment for staff, students and visitors to enjoy. Improvements to pedestrian, cycle and bus access and circulation ensures the King’s Buildings campus promotes sustainable travel and is safely and well connected to the local and wider city environs. The campus core becomes a pedestrian priority environment, where cars and service vehicles are secondary to pedestrians and cyclists. Quality green space forms a distinctive central green heart; the campus offers an attractive learning environment, build on strong horticultural tradition and ecological associations which have been developed to establish a distinctive “Green Campus” identity. New entrances, signage and a network of linked squares and campus “streets” promote campus identify and a welcoming sense of place, contributing to University appeal and quality of the local environment.

KB Public Realm Strategy

A strategy has been prepared to guide and inform the approach required to deliver the vision. It has three main themes:

  1. Improved Access and Connectivity

Improvements to internal circulation vital to promote the message that the campus is accessible and encourage use of multiple site facilities.

  1. Improved Campus Image and Appeal

Improve appeal to staff and students, building upon assets that support place-making.

  1. Increased Commitment to Sustainability Objectives

The campus needs to be socially, environmentally and economically sustainable to continue to function in the long term as a remote campus, capable of attracting staff and students and providing a valuable local neighbourhood resource.

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