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Robert Glynn (1719-1800), physician at Cambridge.

Medical History
Cambridge University Press
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  • Research Article
  • Education
  • History
  • Medicine
  • Political Science


ROBERT GLYNN (1719-1800), PHYSICIAN AT CAMBRIDGE* by ARTHUR ROOK ROBERT GLYNN practised as a physician at Cambridge throughout the whole of the second half of the eighteenth century. The reputation of the university was then lower than at any time in its history and there were few students. Glynn was one of a small group of men who made an attempt to maintain the continuity of medical teaching at Cambridge. In his day he enjoyed an excellent reputation as a physician but was perhaps even more widely known as poet, controversialist and wit. He numbered among his patients many of the great figures of politics and literature, and their reminiscences and letters provide us with much of our knowledge of his life and his methods of practice. BIRTH AND EDUCATION Glynn was born at Kelland, near Bodmin in Cornwall, on 5 August 1719. He received his early education from a local curate and was then placed on the foundation at Eton (James, 1875). In 1737 he was admitted to King's College, Cambridge as a scholar and, having taken his B.A. in 1741 and M.A. in 1745, he proceeded M.D. in 1752. In 1763 he was elected F.R.C.P. Of his medical training we have no certain knowledge. To proceed to the M.D. the M.A. was required by the Statutes to keep two acts and one opponency and to spend seven years in medicine. Russell Plumptre, Regius Professor of Physic from 1741 to 1793, was active in practice but there is no surviving evidence that he took his teaching responsibilities equally seriously. William Gibson, Professor of Anatomy from 1746 to 1753, practised at Brigham, Yorkshire, and totally neglected his duties at Cambridge (Macalister, 1891). It has been too readily assumed by historians that since these two pillars of the official medical establishment failed to fulfil their obligations, there was no medical teaching in Cambridge in the middle decades of the eighteenth century. During the decade 174049, when Glynn was a student of medicine, some forty men received all or the greater part of their medical

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