The University of Edinburgh was officially established by royal charter, courtesy of James VI, on 14 April 1582. At that time, the university was the fourth university in Scotland (following St Andrews, Aberdeen and Glasgow) when England still only had two (Cambridge and Oxford).
Today the University of Edinburgh is just one of four universities in the city, helping to account for why around 12% of Edinburgh's population is made up of students.
The university itself isn't fully campus based, and instead has collections of buildings and individual structures spread right across the Old Town - here's a round-up of some of the more interesting, attractive, noteworthy and photogenic structures that make up the university as whole.
The university's first purpose-built school building didn't get built until two hundred years after the university was formally established. Before then students attended the homes of the their professors, or congregated in spaces that had other functions originally.
In the late eighteenth century funding was made available for a large scale university building to be developed adjacent to South Bridge, a major piece of college infrastructure to provide the kind of high status presence that the prestigious university demanded.
Robert Adam provided the initial design - having also designed the buildings along South Bridge -- and construction on Old College began, only to come to a halt when Adam died in 1792.
The building was left unfinished for nearly 30 years, before Adam's plans were passed over to William Henry Playfair, who made some modifications to the project and oversaw the completion of the building. Today Old College continues to house the university's law school, along with various administrative offices.
And although it's known as Old College today, the building was originally named New College, until it was superseded by another campus building which took its name.
The new New College was designed again by William Henry Playfair, and was built at the top of the Mound - the linking route between Edinburgh's Old Town and New Town - in 1846.
New College wasn't built for the University of Edinburgh originally, but for the Free Church of Scotland as a training space for ministers and clerics - it only got taken over by the university in 1935.
The two towers of New College create an iconic landmark on the city's skyline, and from certain angles the building appears centrally aligned with the spire of the Hub on the Royal Mile, creating an illusion of it being one church building with a spire and twin towers.
Today New College houses the University of Edinburgh's school of divinity and theology, and its central Assembly Hall continues to be used to host the annual general meetings of the Church of Scotland. The new Scottish Parliament sat at new College between 1999 and 2004, while the modern parliament building was being constructed.
OLD MORAY HOUSE
The oldest of the university's major school structures is probably Old Moray House, built originally in the early seventeenth century for the Countess of Home, and today has the name of the Earl of Moray who married her daughter in 1627.
At one time it was described as the most handsome house on the whole of the Royal Mile - an exceptionally high status property whose substantial gateway was drawn onto early maps of the city as a navigational aid...
Today Moray House forms part of the University of Edinburgh's campus where the school of education is based - it was here that JK Rowling trained to be a teacher before writing those books which saved her the hassle of having to plan lessons and face OFSTED inspections...
The building was also commandeered by Oliver Cromwell following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, when the English army marched on Edinburgh to take the city - Cromwell is reputed to have stood on the balcony which overlooks the Royal Mile to watch his army on their way to seize Edinburgh Castle.
Developed for the University of Edinburgh's science and technology departments from the 1920s, this collection of buildings today combines original structures and more modern teaching spaces in a vibrant and bustling campus.
King's Buildings is a couple of miles from Edinburgh city centre and each of the buildings is named for a different figure from Scottish science and technology, including Alexander Graham Bell, Christina Miller, James Clerk Maxwell, and John Muir.
The 1920s Department of Zoology building is decorated with carvings of animals in the sandstone over its windows.
EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY'S MAIN LIBRARY
Located on George Square at the heart of the university's central campus collection of buildings, the main library building was designed in 1967 by the architectural firm established by Basil Spence - it was intended to resemble, from the outside, a series of shelves with books upon them. Each of the eight floors of the library is an acre in size, and when it opened it was the largest library in the UK.
The library's collection of books had actually been started three years before the university itself was founded, with 276 theological texts left in the will of former advocate Clement Littill. By 1637 that collection had swollen to over 2,400 books, and today the University of Edinburgh's library service provides students with access to over 3.8 million texts.
The University of Edinburgh's domed graduation hall stands on Bristo Square, and was built with money given to the university by local brewer William McEwan in the 1890s.
McEwan had donated £113,000 as a gift to help rebalance the perception of brewing as a cause of much of the social inequality of the age.
Not to be outdone, McEwan's rival - Andrew Usher of the Usher brewing family - gave even more money to Edinburgh Council to build an even larger hall in his name! And whereas McEwan gave his building exclusively for the use of the university, Usher wanted his building used by the whole city - and the Usher Hall on Lothian Road remains the city's largest purpose-built concert venue to this day.
THE BAYES CENTRE, DUGALD STEWART BUILDING AND INFORMATICS CENTRE
Bringing the University of Edinburgh bang up to date is the contemporary collection of building across from the McEwan Hall on Potterrow.
The Bayes Centre itself was built at a cost of £45million and opened in 2018, connected to the Dugald Stewart building from 2007 (housing psychology, philosophy and language sciences) and the Informatics Forum (built 2008), a world-class hub for technology, computing, AI and innovation.
The Bayes Centre is named after Thomas Bayes, a student of logic and theology from the eighteenth century, and his famous theorem - for "calculating how likely a certain hypothesis is given some observed evidence" (? no, me neither) - is affixed into a commemorative plaque in the concrete wall of the building itself.
The University of Edinburgh is the second largest landlord in the city, owning and operating more buildings than any organisation other than Edinburgh Council - so look out for the blue plaques on structures all across the city which will be the indication that the building is part of their extensive portfolio.
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