William Cullen

William Cullan PortraitWilliam Cullen (1720 - 1790) was a key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment.  He was a friend of Adam Smith and David Hume but his achievements have not been so well recognized.  Cullen was a great teacher who explored the relationship between medicine and science in a spirit of liberal inquiry and he played a major role in establishing the Edinburgh of his day as the world’s foremost medical centre.  He attracted many students from overseas, and the medical schools and institutions founded by his pupils set the pattern for medicine in North America.

Cullen was born in Hamilton and educated at Glasgow where he became Professor of Medicine before moving to Edinburgh to take up a sequence of professorships at the University.  Like a true "lard o' pairts" he became First Physician to the King in Scotland and President of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh.  In addition, he was a founder member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

William Cullen introduced the terms Neurosis and Neuroses and gave descriptions of anxiety disorders, eating disorders and other psychological problems 100 years before such disorders were acknowledged and accepted by physicians in general (psychiatrists and psychologists did not exist at that time).  It was for these reasons that we named our Centre after him.

Last Reviewed: 25/10/2013