A NEW online archive has been launched to allow public access to unique 18th-century mail order medicine consultation letters written by one of Scotland’s most famous medics.

For the past four years, Glasgow University researchers have been creating an online digital edition of the rare medical correspondence of Dr William Cullen (1710-1790), one of the treasures held in the Sibbald Library of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

The publicly accessible historical artefacts are available online from today and were launched by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh at a ceremony to celebrate the work of the leading physician, chemist and agriculturalist.

Cullen retained all his letters and responses, which together form a remarkable collection of more than 5,000 items.

Anyone who wants to find out if their ancestors wrote to the 18th-century doctor for medical advice and what he prescribed can find all the answers in the online archive.

Cullen began his career as a medical lecturer and teacher of chemistry at the University of Glasgow.

He rose to international fame as the leading figure in the University of Edinburgh’s Medical School, served as President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and was appointed the King’s Physician in Scotland.

Cullen was the most influential medical lecturer of his generation who drew thousands of students to the Edinburgh Medical School.

As the pre-eminent Scottish medical figure of his day, his opinion was in high demand and people wrote to him from around the world requesting his advice on treatments.

One letter was from a Scottish plantation owner asking the physician how to cure an American slave’s epilepsy, there are enquiries about a Russian princess who is suffering from gout and a patient who became ill after eating a surfeit of cucumbers.

The archives can be viewed online at: cullenproject.ac.uk/cullen-archive.php