IMC Macintyre
Journal Issue: 
Volume 42: Issue 4: 2012



The Edinburgh surgeon-apothecary and physician George Young was an empiric who emphasised observation, practical experience and a sceptical approach to evidence in medicine. He was an early member of the Rankenian Club, a group of young intellectuals whose ideas were to be at the heart of Scottish Enlightenment thinking. Young certainly influenced his pupil Robert Whytt, who went on to make important contributions to the understanding of nerve and muscle function. James Hill, Young’s apprentice, to whom he emphasised the importance of experience and observation, would later advance thinking and practice in the management of head injury. Young was an important, but to date relatively neglected, figure in the early years of the Edinburgh Medical School and the Scottish Enlightenment. This paper describes what is known of his life and work, aims to assess his legacy and suggests that he deserves greater recognition and appreciation.

Keywords George Young, Rankenian Club, Edinburgh surgeon and physician, philosopher, Treatise on Opium

Declaration of Interests IMC Macintyre is the History Editor of The Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. This article was submitted to, and handled exclusively by, the JRCPE’s Editor and has been peer-reviewed in line with  standard JRCPE procedures.