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Darwin spent two years studying medicine at Edinburgh University.

Edinburgh University

Edinburgh University. © University of Edinburgh

In 1825, aged 16, Darwin enrolled at Edinburgh University to study medicine, following his father and grandfather. Although it offered the best medical education in Britain, Charles found the lectures dull and the clinical studies distressing. He was horrified to witness the pain patients had to suffer when operated on with no anaesthetic.

During his second year, Darwin pursued his interests in natural history through a small student group called the Plinian Society. He became close to Robert Grant, a sponge expert, with whom he explored and studied the marine life of the coastline near Edinburgh. Grant moved on to University College, London, where he established the Grant Museum.

After two years Darwin finally abandoned his medical studies and left Edinburgh in 1827.

11 Lothian Street. © Robert Siegel, MD, PhD, Sanford University Plaque at 11 Lothian Street. © Robert Siegel, MD, PhD, Sanford University

Lothian Street

While studying at Edinburgh, Darwin shared lodgings with his brother Erasmus, at 11 Lothian Street. There is a plaque on the building that now stands on this site. The building is now occupied by the Natural World galleries of the National Museum of Scotland.

Natural history gallery, NMS. © Bob Bloomfield Close-up of plaque. © Bob Bloomfield

‘There is grandeur in this view of life... from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.’ Charles Darwin