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Whytt, Robert (1714-1766)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0114 MS0073
Held at: Royal College of Surgeons of England
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Full title: Whytt, Robert (1714-1766)
Date(s): c 1765
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 volume
Name of creator(s): Unknown


Administrative/Biographical history:

Robert Whytt was born in Edinburgh in 1714. He studied in St Andrews, where he was awarded Master of Arts in 1730, and also in Edinburgh, Paris and Leiden. He was awarded Doctor of Medicine at the University of Rheims in 1736. He began to practice as a doctor in 1738. He was appointed Professor of Medicine, at the University of Edinburgh in 1747, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1752. Whytt's important work concerned unconscious reflexes, tubercular meningitis, and the treatment of urinary bladder stones. His experiments indirectly led to the discovery of carbon dioxide by Joseph Black in 1754. His studies of reflexology and tubercular meningitis had a greater impact on the science of medicine. Whytt was the first to ascribe a reflex - Whytt's reflex, a dilation of the pupil brought on by pressure on the optic thalamus - to a specific part of the body. He also demonstrated that the spinal cord, rather than the brain, could be the source of involuntary action. His description of 'dropsy of the brain' (tubercular meningitis) was the first methodical and accurate definition of the disease, and it would have been impossible to define to a more accurate extent with the instruments available in at that time. He was physician to King George III in Scotland from 1761. He was elected President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1763. He died in 1766.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers relating to Robert Whytt, c 1765, comprising a volume containing notes of lectures given by Robert Whytt (1714-1766), William Cullen (1710-1790) and Alexander Monro (1733-1817), written by an unknown hand.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

As outlined in Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

By written appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction:

No photocopying permitted.

Finding aids:

Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (1928) by Victor G Plarr.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The provenance of this volume is not known.

Allied Materials

Related material:

See collection descriptions for William Cullen - MS0054, and Alexander Monro.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Anya Turner.
Source: Navigational Aids for the History of Science, Technology and the Environment (NAHSTE) website at

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Aug 2008

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