University of Edinburgh - American Education
A Scottish institution of higher learning founded in 1583 and the alma mater of many leading educators in the American colonies. Like Cambridge and Oxford in the previous century, Edinburgh and, to a lesser extent, its older counterpart in Glasgow, produced the leading Presbyterian ministers and thinkers of the 18th century, including philosopher Thomas Reid (1710– 96), philosopher-historian David Hume (171176) and minister-teacher JOHN WITHERSPOON. Witherspoon moved to the colonies and reshaped the fledgling College of New Jersey into Princeton College. There, he taught and prepared for public office the principal shapers of the new American republic, including one president (James Madison), one vice president (Aaron Burr), 10 cabinet officers, 60 members of Congress and three justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In addition to Witherspoon, Edinburgh gave the colonies such teachers as William Tennent, who founded the LOG COLLEGE, and Francis Alison, who reshaped Benjamin Franklin’s Academy of Philadelphia into the College of Philadelphia (later, the University of Pennsylvania). What made Edinburgh and the training it gave its students important to American education is that Edinburgh, unlike English universities, did not cater to an elite class. Indeed, Edinburgh and other Scottish institutions provided students with a practical as well as classical education, at affordable fees, regardless of economic class or social standing. Men like Witherspoon, Tennent and Alison had been educated in an atmosphere of social tolerance, and they brought that tolerance to the New World.
Like Cambridge and Oxford in the 17th century, the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow also served as centers for advanced studies in the professions for Americans who had completed work for their baccalaureate at colonial colleges. Edinburgh’s medical school was recognized as the world’s finest in the mid- 18th century, drawing students from all parts of the world. JOHN MORGAN, who later founded the first American medical school, studied medicine at Edinburgh after earning his bachelor’s degree at the College of Philadelphia.