William Cullen

1710 (Hamilton, Scotland) – 1790 (Edinburgh)

Cullen, a key Scottish Enlightenment figure and highly influential as a teacher of medicine and chemistry, gave the first demo of artificial refrigeration, and coined the term ‘neurosis’. Hunter was his apprentice and friend, living in his house for three years. Black (protégé, friend and colleague), Rush and Withering were among his students, and Smith a lifelong friend; Cullen advised him to ride at least 500 miles if he wanted to survive the next Scottish winter. Hutton was another close friend, and Pringle a warm correspondent. He saw his friend Hume on his deathbed. Johnson described him as “very entertaining.”

Francis Hutcheson

1694 (Saintfield, Ireland) – 1746 (Dublin)

Hutcheson was responsible for Glasgow’s role in the Scottish Enlightenment, influencing both Hume and Smith, its greatest figures. Lesser known than he might be (because while teaching in English, he published in Latin), his textbooks were influential in Scottish and U.S. universities through the 18th C. Smith and Reid were students of his (he has been described as his students’ banker, guardian and friend); Smith fondly called him “never to be forgotten”. Hume cut his teeth in philosophical jousting with Hutcheson, and although Hutcheson tried to hinder Hume’s career, they corresponded until Hutcheson’s death.

Francis Hutcheson knew…

Dugald Stewart

1753 (Edinburgh) – 1828 (Edinburgh)

Stewart, a brilliant teacher, was an influential member of Scottish Enlightenment circles. He was taught by Ferguson, who recommended he go to Glasgow to attend the common-sense philosopher Reid’s lectures. Reid became his mentor, and Stewart took over Ferguson’s position when his former teacher was sent to America. Among Stewart’s own students were Scott, Mill and Sydney Smith. He was influenced by Monboddo, friendly with Burns, Edgeworth and Playfair, and observed the beginning of the French Revolution with Jefferson. A member of Adam Smith’s Oyster Club, he wrote biographies of Smith and Reid.

Herman Boerhaave

Hermann Boerhaave

1668 (Voorhout, Netherlands) – 1738 (Leiden)

The immensely influential Boerhaave established the practice of clinical teaching, and the institution of the teaching hospital. Such major figures as Linnaeus (who went on to become a student) and Voltaire came to visit him. Other students included Albinus (who went on to be recalled as a professional colleague), Musschenbroek, van Swieten, Haller, La Mettrie and Pringle. ‘sGravesande was a younger colleague. Fahrenheit visited and corresponded (Boerhaave was a pioneer of the clinical use of the thermometer); Sloane was another correspondent. Haller described Boerhaave as the teacher of all Europe.

Herman Boerhaave knew…

Alexander Graham Bell

1847 (Edinburgh) – 1922 (Beinn Breagh, Nova Scotia, Canada)

Bell wasn’t the sole inventor of the telephone, but was the first to get it working effectively, and was a famous teacher of the deaf. His father took him, aged 15, to meet Wheatstone, a pivotal moment. Henry encouraged his sound-transmission experiments. Gray competed with him, accusing him of stealing his design, but in letters acknowledged Bell’s own prior work. Bell demonstrated his invention to Thomson, giving him some sets. Generous with money, he helped fund Michelson’s research. De Candolle, James, Draper, Longfellow, Holmes and Marconi — whom he invited to visit — were among his correspondents.

John Tyndall

1820 (Leighlinbridge, Ireland) – 1893 (Hindhead, England)

Tyndall has been described as “the greatest experimental physicist of the Victorian age” for his wide-ranging work, and was the first to prove the greenhouse effect. Frankland and he met as young teachers, and studied together under Bunsen in Marburg. He collaborated with Knoblauch (one among his huge range of correspondents, many German) and researched in Magnus’s Berlin laboratory. A member of Huxley’s ‘X-Club’, he was greatly admired by his friend Faraday, translated Helmholtz, defended Pasteur, and tangled with Joule. A great climber and hiker, he visited Muir at Yosemite, and wrote to his friend Darwin about mucus and nostril-hair.

Abraham Gottlob Werner

1749 (Wehrau, Prussian Silesia, now Osiecznica, Poland) – 1817 (Dresden)

Werner had a double influence: on geology and in particular the significance of stratification, and on German Romanticist writing and philosophy (in both cases through the students he taught). Klaproth was one of Werner’s own teachers. Among his many students were Humboldt, Mohs, Charpentier, del Rio, von Buch and d’Aubuisson de Voisins; both Humboldt and von Buch lived with Werner while studying in Freiberg. The writer Novalis and the philosopher and poet Steffens also studied geology with him (as did Robert Jameson, whose own lectures in geology bored the 16-year-old Darwin).

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

1742 (Ober-Ramstadt, Germany) – 1799 (Göttingen)

A keen anglophile, Lichtenberg met Priestley, Solander, Banks, Aubert and Raspe in London. He went to Drury Lane with Johann Reinhold Forster, admiring and meeting Garrick, and regretted when he visited Bath (bored with tea-drinking and card-playing) that he hadn’t known that his future correspondent Herschel lived there. Goethe and Kant were friends and correspondents, Humboldt a grateful student, and Georg Forster a close friend and fellow-editor. Blumenbach and Gmelin were colleagues in Göttingen. Volta (full of ideas) dedicated a body of research to him: he joked about Volta’s understanding of sexual electricity.

Johann Jakob Bodmer

1698 (Greifensee, Switzerland) – 1783 (Zürich)

Bodmer’s significance isn’t for his poetry or plays (he was derivative at best), but for his reinstatement of the medieval Nibelunglied, his translations from English, his stand for expressive freedom (Haller among his supporters), and his influential effect on others. Lavater, Pestalozzi, Sulzer and Fuseli (Füssli) were among his students; he introduced Fuseli to Homer, the Nibelunglied, Shakespeare and Milton. The young Klopstock and Wieland were his houseguests; he championed their work, though was put out by the taste of each for earthly pleasures. Goethe also stayed with him, introduced by Lavater.

Alexander Glazunov

Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov

1865 (St. Petersburg) – 1936 (Paris)

Rimsky-Korsakov taught him, becoming more a colleague than teacher: Balakirev introduced them. He dedicated a piece to Siloti, recommended the adolescent Prokofiev study at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and helped set Rachmaninoff’s career back by several years when he conducted his first symphony (drunk). Liszt played Beethoven for him in Weimar, Fokine collaborated with him, and Shostakovich (whose welfare as a student concerned Glazunov) provided him with illegal alcohol. He turned Diaghilev’s offer down, to Stravinsky’s great advantage: Stravinsky admired him, but disliked him as a person.

Alexander Glazunov knew…