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History and Culture

With our rich history, noted alumni and distinguished scholars, we have much to be proud of in our many centuries as a world-renowned university.

From Nobel laureates and Olympic champions to space explorers and prime ministers, the University of Edinburgh has been influencing history since it opened the gates to its first students in 1583.

Ground-breaking thinkers

Following the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century, the University was positioned at the forefront of academia and critical thinking.

Due to the determination and perseverance of a group of Edinburgh intellectuals, established facts about the world were being boldly and consistently challenged.

Amid this group was David Hume, philosopher, economist and essayist known for his philosophical skepticism and empiricism; Joseph Black, the chemist behind the discovery of latent heat and carbon dioxide; and James Hutton, the ‘Father of Modern Geology’.

Shaping the past, the present and the future

We are the home of Britain’s oldest literary awards, the James Tait Black Prizes and Dolly the sheep, the first animal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell.

It was also here at the University of Edinburgh that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired to create his notorious character, Sherlock Holmes and James Young Simpson pioneered anaesthetics through his discovery of the properties of chloroform.

More recently, theoretical physicist and Professor Emeritus Peter Higgs was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his 1964 prediction of the Higgs Boson.

Through the many achievements of its staff and students, the University has continued to present cutting-edge research, inspirational teaching and innovative thinking as its central ethos, attracting some of the greatest minds from around the globe. 

You can find our more about the history of Edinburgh here.