Edinburgh: The Medical City

In an hour long history of medicine in Edinburgh, Professor David Purdie and librarian Ian Milne talk about royalty, body snatchers and herbal remedies.

As both speakers pointed out at the beginning of the performance, this isn’t a normal Fringe show. It more takes the form of a lecture, exploring the impact of medical development from over 700 years ago, right up to the late 20th century. It is a huge topic to try and summarise in 60 minutes, so the speakers have to be selective. They start off by showing a book from the library collection dating back to the 14th century, a prime example of the very primitive form of medicine, when doctors diagnosed most diseases by looking at the colour of the urine. This is just the first of many fascinating props which the speakers brought along with them, including a first edition of Charles Darwin’s ‘The Origin of Species’, and Bonnie Prince Charlie’s very own medicine cabinet. There were a few laughs as Professor Purdie talked about the man most physicians admire; he who made millions by creating a cure for which there was no disease. He joked about an early remedy being ‘the skull of a man killed by violence’; red-haired skulls were the most sought after.

It seemed as if the majority of the audience was made up of either doctors or medical students, but the show is sure to equally delight those who have no connection to medicine whatsoever. Those who have an interest in medicine, history or Edinburgh itself are sure to find this talk interesting and you’ll even get a chance to talk to the speakers and have a closer look at the artefacts after the show is over.

Reviews by Catherine Anderson

The Blurb

From herbals to bodysnatchers and beyond. Professor David Purdie and Sibbald librarian Iain Milne use the Royal College of Physician's spectacular collection and surroundings to tell the story of medicine in Edinburgh in 60 minutes.