William Cullen (1710-1790)
William Cullen was a Scottish physician who played a significant role in the Scottish Enlightenment. Cullen was a polymath who was the first to demonstrate the principles of refrigeration using his expertise in chemistry. He practised surgery and medicine and amongst his students was Benjamin Rush, one of the founders of the United States.
Cullen wrote a landmark textbook on medicine ‘First Lines of the Practice of Physic‘ based on his Edinburgh lectures. He organised the medical knowledge of his time, creating a classification of diseases. Cullen’s conceptualised a model of disease in which the nervous system played a central role and in which treatments would stimulate or relax the nervous system. He referred to the ‘neuroses’ and it was his work that was to later influence Pinel in France although there has been caution about oversimplifying Cullen’s works.
- Cullen focused on nosology
- Cullen focused on education
- Cullen summarised his body of knowledge in an influential textbook
- Cullen was a central figure in the Scottish enlightenment which in turn had been influenced by John Locke’s conceptualisation of empiricism
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