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Philosophic Whigs explores the links between scientific activity and politics and offers new insights into the form and content of medical education in early nineteenth-century Scotland. Through a study of the Thomson family a medical dynasty active in Edinburgh from 1789 to 1848 L.S. Jacyna describes how the Thomsons acted as medical entrepreneurs, developing novel forms of pedagogy in their attempt to secure their position within the competitive and acrimonious environment of the Edinbugh Medical School. The author also considers the political allegiances and opinions of the Thomsons and their close associates. He aligns them in the broad circle of other philosophical Whigs' such as Francis Jeffrey and Henry Brougham, and illustrates how Scottish professorial appointments were often decided on the political rather than the professional merits of a candidate. For the Edinburgh Whig intelligentsia, intellectual and especially scientific activity were seen as a means of expressing a political identity.
However, this identity often appeared in the science itself Philosophic Whigs shows that certain of the physiological theories promulgated by these medical authors present a characteristically Whig view of the body.