This is a study of Dr. William Cullen (1710-1790), the Scottish chemist,
physician, and professor of medicine, who played a significant role in the Scottish
I argue that Cullen was both a more unorthodox figure in Scottish medicine
than he is generally depicted, as well as a more ambitious one. Despite his
controversial doctrines, he skillfully managed the hierarchy of his profession and
reached the pinnacle of success as a learned physician in the Scottish Enlightenment.
I explore Cullen’s life and thought from different angles. I explicate his
pedagogical persona and philosophy of medicine, both of which shaped the
experiences of his pupils. I show how his neurophysiology was rooted in his
contentious interpretation of the nature of the nervous fluid. And I provide a detailed
look at Cullen’s understanding of hygiene, or the art of health—a rarely-studied
component of his practice of medicine.