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July 13, 1964


JAMA. 1964;189(2):150-151. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03070020078021

Robert Whytt (1714-1766), the predecessor of William Cullen in the chair of medicine at Edinburgh, is less well known, but his contributions to clinical medicine and particularly to the pathogenesis of reflex action place him firmly among the foremost physicians of Edinburgh in the 18th century. His clear description of tuberculous meningitis, his explanation of the sentient (sensitivity) principle in involuntary action, and the significance of emotions in the natural history of organic diseases easily offset his mistaken emphasis on the value of lime-water in the treatment of urinary tract concretions. Whytt (pronounced White) was born four years after Cullen. His father, a member of the Scottish bar and proprietor of the estate of Bennochie, died six months before Robert was born. His mother died when he was six years old. He must have been blessed with wise and good guardians who made it possible for him to obtain an

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