University of Edinburgh

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Global Influence

Public research university in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

University of Edinburgh Featured Rankings

About University of Edinburgh

By James Barham, PhD

In spite of dating back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the University of Edinburgh is only the fourth-oldest university in Scotland (after St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen), hence the sixth-oldest in the English-speaking world (with Oxford and Cambridge, of course, in first and second positions).

As the city of Edinburgh itself grew in importance, however, its university also came to dominate its Scottish rivals. That is why, for such a relatively “young” university, Edinburgh is associated with a quite remarkable list of intellectual luminaries, including the following, including, during the seventeenth century, the well-known Presbyterian theologian, Samuel Rutherford.

During the following eighteenth-century – the Scottish Enlightenment – Edinburgh was home to a veritable galaxy of celebrated thinkers, including:

  • Philosophers, David Hume, Adam Smith, & Adam Ferguson
  • Theologian and mathematician, Thomas Bayes
  • Theologian, educator, and signer of the US Declaration of Independence, John Witherspoon
  • Physician and US Declaration of Independence—signer, Benjamin Rush
  • Lawyer, US Declaration of Independence – signer, and US Supreme Court Justice, James Wilson
  • Physicist, Joseph Black
  • Geologist, James Hutton
  • Celebrated author of the Life of Johnson, James Boswell

During the Victoria era, two of the most-influential scientists of all time, the naturalist Charles Darwin and the physicist James Clerk Maxwell, both studied here. Other nineteenth-century, Edinburgh-connected scientists include the botanist Robert Brown (the first person to observe what is now called “Brownian motion”); the physician Joseph Lister (a pioneer of antiseptic surgery); and Alexander Graham Bell (the inventor of the telephone).

We may also mention:

  • Philosopher, James Frederick Ferrier
  • Novelists Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, & Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Playwright, J.M. Barrie
  • Neoclassical architect, William Henry Playfair
  • Satirist and cultural critic, Thomas Carlyle

As for the twentieth century, among 19 Nobel Prize – winners who have been associated with the University of Edinburgh, we may mention:

  • Max Born and Peter Higg–physics
  • Peter Mitchell–chemistry
  • Hermann Muller, Alexander Fleming, and May-Britt Moser–physiology or medicine

There have been four Edinburgh-connected Turing Award – winners, namely:

  • Robin Milner
  • Alan Kay
  • Leslie Valiant
  • Geoffrey Hinton

Scientific breakthroughs that have occurred here include the first cloning of a mammal (the sheep Dolly) and the first genetically engineered hepatitis B vaccine. Edinburgh scientists also helped design the world’s first industrial-assembly robotic system.

According to Wikipedia, The University of Edinburgh is a public research university in Edinburgh, Scotland. Granted a royal charter by King James VI in 1582 and officially opened in 1583, it is one of Scotland's four ancient universities and the sixth-oldest university in continuous operation in the English-speaking world. The university played an important role in Edinburgh becoming a chief intellectual centre during the Scottish Enlightenment and contributed to the city being nicknamed the "Athens of the North".

What Is University of Edinburgh Known For?

University of Edinburgh is known for it's academic work in the following disciplines:

University of Edinburgh's Top Areas of Influence With Degrees Offered

Who Are University of Edinburgh's Most Influential Alumni?

University of Edinburgh's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Philosophy, Medical, and Biology. Here are some of University of Edinburgh's most famous alumni:

Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
A British naturalist, author of "On the Origin of Species, by Means of Natural Selection" .
David Hume
David Hume
A Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian.
James Clerk Maxwell
James Clerk Maxwell
A Scottish physicist and mathematician.
Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell
A Scientist and inventor known for his work on the telephone.
Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
A Scottish essayist, historian and philosopher.
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Rush
An American physician, educator, author.
Richard Owen
Richard Owen
An English biologist and paleontologist.
Walter Scott
Walter Scott
A Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson
A Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer .
Thomas Bayes
Thomas Bayes
A British mathematician.
Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers
An American journalist.
Charles Bell
Charles Bell
A British surgeon and artist .