Making history

Regarding Dr Elsie Inglis (Letters, 18 May) your readers may be interested in the part played by St Andrews University in the education of Britain’s first ever woman doctor, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917).

At a time when all university students were male, the newly appointed Professor Forster Heddle MD admitted Elizabeth Garrett to his chemistry class in October 1862.

Horrified, the university authorities consulted the other Scottish universities. Glasgow replied that “the idea is so revolting that it is difficult to imagine that it could have been seriously entertained”.

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St Andrews immediately declared her matriculation and class ticket “void and of no effect” but Heddle taught her privately for several months.

She became a popular heroine among the St Andrews students. In February 1863 the route of the Kate Kennedy procession included her lodgings at 10 Bell Street, where the students “gave her three lusty cheers”.

Soon afterwards Elizabeth Garrett left, eventually achieving her goal of becoming a doctor after years of remarkable persistence in the face of many obstacles placed in her path.

Hamish Johnston