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The Scottish Nation

CULLEN, a surname derived from lands in the parish of that name in the county of Banff. The name is taken from the burn which flows through it, the etymology of which is unknown, but from the depth of water and height of its banks it may be an old French word signifying colina, a pool; or from the situation of the town and parish on the Moray firth, it may have been derived from colon, a planter, hence colony.

CULLEN, WILLIAM, M.D., one of the most celebrated physicians of his time, the son of a farmer, was born in the parish of Hamilton, Lanarkshire, December 11, 1710. He was educated at the grammar school of his native town; and having served a short apprenticeship to a surgeon and apothecary in Glasgow, he went several voyages as surgeon in a merchant vessel sailing between London and the West Indies. Becoming tired of this employment, he returned to Scotland about the beginning of 1732, and practised for a short time as a country surgeon in the parish of Shotts; he then removed to Hamilton, with a view to obtaining medical practice there. The duke of Hamilton having been suddenly taken ill, Cullen was called in, and prescribed with success, which, with the charms of his conversation, secured for him the patronage of his grace. During his residence in Hamilton, the chief magistrate of which he was in 1739 and 1740, he, and the afterwards equally celebrated Dr. William Hunter, who was a native of the same part of the country, entered into partnership as surgeons and apothecaries, which, however, in consequence of Dr. Hunter’s success in London, was soon dissolved, but during the time it continued Cullen attended the medical classes at Edinburgh for one session.

      During the residence of Dr. Cullen in Hamilton, Archibald earl of Ilay, afterwards duke of Argyle, being in that part of the country, required some chemical apparatus. It was suggested to him that Dr. Cullen was likely to have what his lordship wanted. He was accordingly invited to dinner by that nobleman, and made himself very agreeable. This interview was one of the chief causes of his future rise in life. He had secured the patronage of the prime minister of Scotland, besides the countenance of the duke of Hamilton.

      In September 1740, Cullen took the degree of M.D. at Glasgow. In 1746, through the interest of the earl of Ilay and the duke of Hamilton, he was appointed lecturer on chemistry in that university; and in 1751 was chosen regius professor of medicine, when he appears to have taught both classes. In 1756, on the death of Dr. Plummer, professor of chemistry in Edinburgh, Dr. Cullen accepted of an invitation to the vacant chair. In 1758, after finishing his course of chemistry, he delivered to a number of his particular friends and favourite pupils, nine lectures on the subject of agriculture. In these few lectures, he for the first time laid open the true principle concerning the nature of soils, and the operation of manures. On the death of Dr. Alston in 1763, he succeeded him as lecturer on the Materia Medica, and in 1766 he resigned the chemical chair to his pupil, Dr. Black, on his being appointed, on the death of Dr. Whytt, professor of the institutes or theory of Medicine. Dr. John Gregory, a short time before, had succeeded to the chair of the practice of medicine; and these two professors continued each to teach his own class for three sessions. At the conclusion of the session 12th April 1769, Dr. Cullen proposed to the patrons that Dr. Gregory and he should alternately teach the institutes and the practice. This was complied with, and it was declared that the survivor should have in his option which professorship he preferred. On the death of Dr. Gregory in February 1773, Dr. Cullen chose the chair of the practice of medicine, and held it with distinguished honour for the remainder of his life. As a lecturer Dr. Cullen exercised a great influence over the state of opinion relative to the mystery of the science of medicine. He successfully combated the specious doctrines of Boerhaave depending on the humoral pathology; his own system is founded on an enlarged view of the principles of Frederick Hoffman. His lectures were invariably delivered from a few short notes, and he carried with him both the regard and the enthusiasm of the pupils.

Dr. Cullen continued his practice as a physician, as well as his medical lectures, till a few months before his death, when the infirmities of age induced him to resign his professorship. On the 8th of January 1790, the lord provost, magistrates, and town council of Edinburgh voted a piece of plate, of fifty guineas value, to Dr. Cullen, as a testimony of their respect for his distinguished services to the university, during the period of thirty-four years that he had held an academical chair. A meeting of his pupils was held on the 12th, in the Medical Hall, when an address to the doctor was agreed upon. A motion was also made and unanimously agreed to, that a statue, or some durable monument of the doctor, should be erected in some proper place, to perpetuate his fame. The Royal Physical Society also agreed to an address to the venerable professor, to which a suitable answer was returned by his son Henry, Dr. Cullen himself being much indisposed. Similar addresses were presented by the Hibernian Medical Society, and by the American Physical Society of Edinburgh. The senatus academicus of the university of Edinburgh also held a meeting, at which they passed a resolution agreeing to allow for the proposed monument a conspicuous place in the new college. Dr. Cullen did not long survive these flattering testimonials of respect. He died February 5, 1790. He had married, while in Hamilton, Miss Johnston, the daughter of a clergyman in the neighbourhood, and by her ha had five sons and four daughters. Two of his sons were Robert, a lord of session, of whom a memoir follows, and Dr. Henry Cullen.

      Dr. Cullen’s works are:

      Synopsis Nosologiae Methodicae in usum Studiosorum. This work was first published in Edin. 1769, 1 vol. 8vo. The same, Edin. 1772, 8vo. 1790, 8vo.; but afterwards enlarged to 2 vols. The 4th ed. containing the Author’s last corrections, was published, Edin. 1785, 2 vols. 8vo. And another entit. Nosology; or, A Systematic Arrangement of Diseases by Classes, Orders, Genera, and Species; with the distinguishing characters of each, and outlines of the systems of Sauvages, Linnaeus, Vogel, Sagar, and Macbride. Translated from the Latin. Edin. 1800, 8vo. Since that time there have been several editions, both in this country, and on the Continent. 7th ed. Edin. 1802, 8vo. Translated into English. Lond. 1799, 8vo. Several Abridgments.

      Institutions of Medicine, a treatise on Physiology for the use of Students. 1772, 12mo. 2d ed. 1777, 8vo. 3d ed. corrected. Edin. 1785, 8vo. Various translations.

      Lectures on the Materia Medica; with many corrections, from the collation of different manuscripts, by the editors. Lond. 1772, 4to. Published without the Author’s consent or knowledge; from Notes taken at his Lectures. Reprinted with large additions and corrections, and the Author’s permission. Lond. 1773, 4to. Of this work Dr. C. himself gives an enlarged and corrected edition. Edin. 1789o, 2 vols, 4to.

      Letter to Lord Cathcart, concerning the Recovery of Persons drowned, and seemingly dead. Edin. 1775, 8vo.

      First Lines of the Practice of Physic; for the use of Students in the University of Edinburgh. Edin. 1776-83, 4 vols. 8vo. 2d edit. Edin. 1784, 4 vols. 8vo. In English, 1789, 2 vols. 4to. A new edit. with Notes by Dr. Rotherham. Edin. 1796, 4 vols. 8vo. Another by Dr. P. Reid, including recent improvements and discoveries. Edin. 1802, 2 vols. 8vo. Reprinted with improvements, 1810. Dr. Gregory also gives a correct edition of this work. Various translations.

      Clinical Lectures, delivered in the years 1765-6, by William Cullen, M.D. taken in short hand, by a Gentleman who attended. Lond. 1797, 8vo. By John Thomson. Edin. 1814, 8vo.

      Of the Cold produced by Evaporating Fluids; and of some other means of producing Cold. Ess. Phys. and Lit. ii. p. 145, 1756. This little Tract is also printed with one of Dr. Black’s.

CULLEN, ROBERT, an eminent judge under the title of Lord Cullen, the eldest son of the preceding, studied at the university of Edinburgh, and was admitted advocate, 15th December 1764. His practice at the bar was extensive, and in addition to considerable legal knowledge, he was distinguished as an acute and logical reasoner. He was a contributor to the Mirror and Lounger, and various essays from his pen in these publications were much admired. His manners were polished and agreeable, and he was one of the few individuals who were spoken favourably of by the Rev. George William Auriol Hay Drummond, in his ‘Town Eclogue,’ (Edinburgh, 1804, 8vo,) in which he is styled “courteous Cullen.” In his youth he was an excellent mimic, and some amusing anecdotes of his imitative talents are given in the sketch of him which accompanies his portrait in Kay’s Edinburgh Portraits. On the death of Lord Alvah in 1796, he was appointed a lord of session, and took his seat by the title of Lord Cullen, on 18th November of that year, and on 29th June 1799, he succeeded Lord Swinton as a lord of justiciary. He died at Edinburgh on 28th November 1810. Late in life, he married a servant girl of the name of Russell, but by her had no issue. After his lordship’s death, she married a gentleman of property in the West Indies, where she died in 1818.

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