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History of the School

Old CollegeThe teaching of Chemistry at Edinburgh began almost 300 hundred years ago in 1713 when James Crawford was appointed to the Chair of Physick and Chymistry.

We celebrated our Tercentenary in 2013.

At that time Chemistry was taught as part of courses on medicine and it wasn't until 1844 and the appointment of William Gregory to the Chair of Chemistry that the subject truly stood apart from medicine at Edinburgh, though as you will discover many of Gregory's predecessors were Chemists first and foremost. Crawford himself had advocated the separation of Chemistry and medicine, allowing the former to take its rightful place as a science in its own right and this attitude was common among all the professors in the early history of the department. You can read more about these remarkable men in our Professors section.

The department has occupied many sites in its history, from a house at the top of Robertson's Close in the city centre, to purpose-built facilities in the central campus at Old College and the Medical school through to its current location at King's Buildings. Each move has brought with it expansions in size and status until the department occupied the position it does now, as one of the world's leading Chemistry teaching and research establishments.

Today the department carries on the proud traditions of Chemistry at Edinburgh both in teaching and research. Our collaboration with St Andrews to form EaStCHEM will strengthen research in Scotland and our commitment to excellence in teaching which began centuries ago will be carried on well into the future.