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Dr. Andrew Duncan


1744 - 1828

Medical reformer. Born in St. Andrews, Duncan attended the University in that town, before going to the University of Edinburgh to complete his education. He followed a medical career, going on to become Professor of the Theory of Medicine at Edinburgh (1790) and President of the Royal College of Physicians. Duncan lectured on public health and set up a dispensary in Edinburgh in 1776 to try to improve the health of its citizens.

Duncan is best known for his humane treatment of the mentally ill. He had been disgusted by the death of his patient the poet Robert Fergusson (1750 - 74) in the horrific conditions of the Bedlam. He fought for an appropriate institution to house the insane and approval to build the Edinburgh Lunatic Asylum (or East House) was eventually given in 1807. The Asylum was built in the Morningside district of the city by architect Robert Reid and grew into the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

Duncan is buried in the kirkyard of the former Buccleuch Parish Church.

East House was demolished in 1896, but the Royal Edinburgh Hospital remains. It includes the Andrew Duncan Clinic, opened in 1965.


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