The archival collections catalogued by the project are
unrivalled in their importance to a full understanding of the
history of science in Scotland. The most obvious importance and
use of the collections lies in the information they contain on a
whole range of national and international firsts in scientific
advance and technological innovation.
Examples of significant achievements by the scientists working
in the three partner higher education institutions include:
In the eighteenth century, Joseph Black, John Robison and
James Watt worked together on the phenomena associated with
The Edinburgh School of Arts was the world's first Mechanics'
Institute (1821). Later, 'the Glasgow pair', William Thomson
(later Lord Kelvin) and William Maquorn Rankine, laid the
foundations of modern thermodynamics.
In the early part of the twentieth century, James Cossar
Ewart's work on the genetics of horses and sheep led to the first
teaching post in Genetics in Britain (1911).
The collections have great research potential and are being
consulted on a regular basis by academic researchers from around
the world. This potential goes far beyond the history of science
itself. For example, the collections could be used to
the evolution of the curriculum in response to other major
influences like the increasing support and direction from local
and central government
the growth of the importance of research in science and
technological innovation from the nineteenth century to present
day research parks
the impact of scientific development on the student body,
linking to subjects such as the issues surrounding the
recruitment of women as staff and students in science and
The Scottish universities were essentially civic institutions,
which gave them a very different social role to their
counterparts in England. They interacted more with industry and
industrialists to address the lack of available scientific
education, and provide training for artisans and industrial
operatives. They were also active in addressing environmental
problems produced by industrial society such as public
Essays have been compiled for NAHSTE on the following:
Dr John Henry, of the Science Studies Unit, University of
Edinburgh, explores the history of scientific and technical
education in 3 Scottish universities in the online essay.
Matthew D Eddy, Department of Philosophy, University of Durham
looks at the influence of John
David B. Wilson, Iowa State University, discusses John Robison.