The University of Glasgow - History and Facts | History Hit

The University of Glasgow

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Amy Irvine

04 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About The University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and is the fourth-oldest university in the UK. It has more listed buildings than any other British university, and its Gothic architecture is said to be home to some of the finest stonework in Scotland.

History of Glasgow University

The university was founded by a charter (a papal bull) from Pope Nicholas V, at the suggestion of King James II. This gave Bishop William Turnbull, a University of St Andrews graduate, permission to add a university to the city’s Cathedral. Teaching later moved to nearby Rottenrow, in a building known as the ‘Auld Pedagogy’, and the university was later given 13 acres of land belonging to the Black Friars on High Street by Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1563.

The university has been without its original Bull (the authority by which the university awards degrees) since the mid-16th century after Chancellor Archbishop James Beaton fled to France in 1560 during the Scottish Reformation, taking many archives and valuables from the cathedral and university with him for safe-keeping. Although the university’s Mace was returned in 1590, the archives are thought to have gone astray during the French Revolution.

Along with the universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and St Andrews, the university was part of the Scottish Enlightenment during the 18th century.

Scotland’s first female medical graduates completed their degrees there in 1894 and the world’s first ultrasound images of a foetus were published by Glasgow Professor Ian Donald in 1958.

Famous alumni include James Wilson (a US founding father), scientist and engineer Lord Kelvin, engineer James Watt, the father of economics Adam Smith, Scottish devolution architect Donald Dewar and pioneer of television, John Logie Baird – not to mention 2 Prime Ministers and Scotland’s inaugural First Minister.

The University of Glasgow today

Originally located in the city’s High Street, since 1870, the university’s main campus has been at Gilmorehill in the City’s West End. A number of additional university buildings are located elsewhere, and can be visited by the public, including the Chapel, built in 1929 as a memorial to students who died in both World Wars.

Scotland’s oldest museum, the Hunterian Museum (founded in 1807) is also part of the university. It features an array of objects including dinosaur bones, medical instruments, ancient tools, and Roman artefacts from the Antonine Wall.

The Hunterian Art Gallery beside the university library hosts one of the finest public art collections in Scotland, including the single largest number of works by celebrated Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It’s also home to The Mackintosh House, which exhibits some of the interiors of Mackintosh’s home that was demolished in the 1960s.

Glasgow University is rated among the top 10 universities in the UK and in the top 100 in the world.

Getting to Glasgow University

The university is a 10-minute walk from Kelvingrove Park, and is easy to get to from nearly anywhere in Glasgow thanks to the city’s bus and subway networks.

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