Jewish medical students and graduates in Scotland, 1739-1862*

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From earliest times Jewish tradition has linked medical science with religion. Many passages in the Talmud deal with medical matters, and the Rabbis recommended that no wise person should reside in a town without a resident physician.((Babylonian Talmnd: Sanhedrin 17b.)) Indeed, a long tradition of Rabbi physicians dates back to Talmudic times.

When medical schools came to be established in Christian Europe during the Middle Ages, restrictions were often placed on Jewish students. Many univer? sities were religious institutions, so were frequently closed to Jews. Physicians were often trained by a system of apprenticeship rather than at university schools of medicine, and records of Jewish physicians entering into contracts for training medical apprentices can be found dating back to the fifteenth century.((Harry Friedenwald, The Jews and Medicine I (Baltimore 1944) 221.)) Some system of medical apprenticeship is likely to be much older than that, and there is evidence of it in Talmudic times.((Midrash: Deuteronomy Rabbah 6,13. ))

The Church Council of Basel (1431-3) decreed that no Jew should possess a university degree, and this was confirmed by a Bull of Pope Pius IV in 1565.((Friedenwald (see n. 2) 226.)) Despite the prohibition, the Jews of the Middle Ages found their greatest freedom in Italy, and there is a tradition (with no firm evidence to support it) that the first medical school at Salerno was founded with Jewish help and that some of the earliest teaching was in Hebrew.((Ibid. 223-4.))

For many years Italian universities were the only ones where Jews could study medicine, and, with the support of the Senate in Venice, the University of Padua admitted many Jewish students from all over Europe, while for two centuries, beginning in 1515, there were over 200 Jewish medical graduates there.6 Smaller numbers of Jews received their degrees from the universities in Rome, Siena and Ferrara, where admission was more difficult. In France the University of Montpellier saw some Jewish involvement in the medical faculty, but Paris and elsewhere remained closed to the Jews until after the Revolution in 1789.((Ibid. 235-6. )) In Germany the doors of the universities were gradually opened to Jews during the eighteenth century.

Restrictions also applied in England. Candidates for matriculation at Oxford had to subscribe to the articles of the Church of England, and while Jews could study at Cambridge, they could not graduate there in medicine until after the abolition of the Test Acts in 18 71. The situation in Scotland was quite different and no religious tests were required by the universities either for matriculation or at graduation. For this reason many students-dissenters and Jews alike were attracted to the Scottish universities in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Glasgow. Some came from England and Ireland, while others were from further afield: Europe, the West Indies and North America.((David Hamilton, The Healers (Edinburgh 1981) 115-6.)) While the number of Jewish medical students and graduates in Scotland in the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries was small, when set against the diminutive size of the Jewish community in Britain at that time they do

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