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Edinburgh University Archives is part of Special Collections within the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh We are responsible for looking after the historical records of the University and related bodies and as such we look after the corporate memory of the University.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Blog Moved

Our new blog can be found at All content com this blog has been migrated. Please adjust your bookmarks.

Our blog is moving

We will soon be moving our blog fully in-house to the new Library and University Collections blog server. St the moment we're busy migrating content.  The new blog can be found at

Monday, June 24, 2013

Edinburgh’s first women graduates honoured 50 year later

On 13 April 1893, eight women graduated MA, the first women students having been admitted the previous year following a lengthy battle to allow women admittance to the University.  The eight women had already completed most of their exams externally and were awarded their degree within a year of admittance.  The same year they graduated, a further 72 matriculated to study, with an additional 78 attending as non-matriculated students.

In July 1943, three of the eight joined Principal Sir Thomas Holland on the platform for the graduation ceremony in the McEwan Hall: Flora Stewart, nee Philip, Maude Elizabeth Newbigin and Amelia Hutchison Stirling. We blog this to mark 120 years since their graduation.

Sir Thomas Holland with (l-r) Mis Newbibin, Miss Stirling and Mrs. Stewart

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Henry Duncan Littlejohn notebook found

What connects Edinburgh, forensic medicine, public health and Sherlock Holmes? Many people would be tempted to say 'Joseph Bell', although they would probably wonder where public health fitted in. The answer is in fact 'Henry Duncan Littlejohn'.

Born in 1826, the son of a prosperous merchant, Littlejohn was also credited by Conan Doyle as having been an influence. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1847 and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1854.  The same year saw him take up the position with Edinburgh Town Council as Police Surgeon. In 1862 he was appointed Edinburgh's first Medical Officer of Health. The work he undertook had a significant impact on reducing the frequency of outbreaks of smallpox and typhus.

He was President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (1875-6), of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Edinburgh (1883-5), and of the Institute of Public Health (1893). Awarded an honorary degree by the University of Edinburgh in 1893, he was knighted two years later.

Littlejohn was appointed to the Chair of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of Edinburgh in 1897. In the context of that post, a series of his notebooks were kept by his successors within the departmental records of the Forensic Medicine department. However when these arrived in the University Archives volume "Wounds II" was noted as being absent. Thanks to the vigilance of a member of academic staff, this missing volume has now been found and transferred to us.
Page of notes pasted into volume 'Wounds II'.

We are thrilled to be able to reunite this volume with the others. the series now runs to 6 volumes in total:
  1. Infanticide I
  2. Infanticide II
  3. Poisons III
  4. Poisons IV
  5. Wounds I
  6. Wounds II
Enclosed in the third volume are (1) Examination script and (2) Letter about 'meat pies' from a student of Henry Duncan Littlejohn. Enclosed in the fourth volume is booklet A Case of Strychnia Poisoning by J. Allan Gray, Medical Officer of Health, Leith.

The 'new' volume is of a similar format to the others with notes, news cuttings and loose enclosures.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quartercentenary Collection

Notice relating to Scottish Parliamentary Debate, 1938
The Quartercentenary Collection came about as a result of an appeal that was made as the University of Edinburgh approached its 400th anniversary in 1983.  Former staff, students and others responded and sent in all types of university-related items, from student magazines to prize books, from lecture notes to memoirs, from photographs to degree certificates and much more. The scale of the response meant that it has taken until now to start getting a handle on much of it.

We have now begun a full survey of items in the collection was begun and to date nearly 850 items have been documented.  These will form the basis of new catalogue records.

Largely though not exclusively representing the 'student experience, this collection is a real treasure trove and we are glad to being close to make it easily accessible for research.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Neil Armstrong

In memory of astronaut Neil Armstrong, we are displaying the award by the University of Edinburgh to him of Doctor Honoris Causa.  The ceremony took place a the British Embasy in Washington on 13 June 2008.

We hold the certificate (shown here) in the University Archives.

Award certificate
© University of Edinburgh

Further details of the event is on the main University website.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

University Mace stolen - reward offered!

On the night betwixt the 29th/30th October 1787 the door of the Library was broken open by thieves and the University Mace was stolen from the press where it was usually deposited.  The Magistrates offered a reward of ten Guineas for the discovery of the Delinquents.
'NB' inset entered between the College minutes for 11th September and 3rd December 1787.

The University would appear to have been without a mace until 1789. William Creech presented the College with a new one at the meeting of 2nd October that year.  At the same meeting it was reported that the University been granted Arms by the Lord Lyon and that a new seal was to be made, the use of one of the city's seals being "inconvenient and unsuitable to the dignity of the University".