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Archibald Pitcairne (1652-1713) - Dramatist and Poet

He was born on Christmas Day 1652 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of a merchant. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1671 and, having foresworn a calling for the Church, he turned to law, which he studied in Edinburgh and Paris. However his interests turned again, to medicine, and he qualified as a doctor in Rheims in 1681. Pitcairne was a founder-member of the College of Physicians in Edinburgh, where he taught medicine, but his career began to be disrupted by his Jacobite sympathies. Controversy surrounded much of his life and this was exacerbated by his publicly pronounced atheism. The composition of his play The Assembly in 1692, it was not performed until 1722, caused a fresh furore on account of its satirical, and frequently ribald view of the ministry of the Church of Scotland. Another, less successful, play, Tollerators and Contollerators, is a further satire on the Church, and Babell is a long, Hudibrastic satire on his favourite butt, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He wrote a number of conventional classical poems in Latin which were published after his death by Thomas Ruddiman, whom Pitcairne had encouraged during his early days in Edinburgh. For all his courting of public scandal and his liking for bawdy prose, Pitcairne was one of the most respected physicians of his day and a pioneer in the study of the circulation and diseases of the blood.

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