University of Dundee

Route 2 – West End and University of Dundee

Start outside Dundee Science Centre.

1) Dundee Science Centre

Exploring the past, present and future of medical science, the Medical Marvels exhibition on the first floor of the Science Centre features hi-tech interactive displays and a history of surgery with instruments on loan from the Tayside Medical History Museum. Check out this virtual tour of the exhibition created by Science Centre staff:

Walk up steps to cut through by the Queen's Hotel (for those who can't manage stairs head through the DCA using the lift or walk along Greenmarket turn right and then turn right at the first junction onto Nethergate). 

2) Dundee Contemporary Arts

The DCA stands on the site of Dundee’s longest-lasting medieval hospital, known as the Maison Dieu, founded in the 1390s by the Trinitarian Red Friars. After the Reformation it was taken over by the town council and rebuilt. By the 18th century it had fallen out of use and in 1785 the building became a school, the Dundee Academy. 

Find out about Dundee’s other early hospitals in Graham Lowe’s essay on Dundee’s Hospitals Through the Ages.

Image left: Detail from one of John Slezer’s views of Dundee first published in 1693 – the hospital is the building with the spire.

Turn right and head down Nethergate.

3) 136-140 Nethergate

Nethergate was an important centre for medical practice in Victorian Dundee. At 136 was Dr Thomas Maclagan, whose research into salicin helped pave the way for aspirin, who you will learn more on in the Ninewells tour. At 138 was the Dundee Eye Institution, which provided free treatment for those unable to afford it. Read this blog about about the rivalry between the Eye Institution and Eye Dispensary. At 140 was Dr David Greig, a noted physician and surgeon who went to the Crimea with Florence Nightingale.

Image right: Dundee Eye Institution, 1981, courtesy of Tayside Medical History Museum.

Turn left onto South Tay Street and head along to Tay Square.

4) Tay Square

At 4 Tay Square (now demolished and replaced with another building) was the practice of Alice Moorhead and Emily Thomson. Originally founded in 1894 at 93 Nethergate, this is believed to have been the first all-female medical practice in Scotland. They also helped to establish Dundee Women’s Hospital on Seafield Road. 

Read more about Alice and Emily on the Dundee Women's Trail website

Head up steps to the right of Dundee Rep and go round the back of the building onto Park Place (to avoid steps, continue on South Tay Street then head left onto Old Hawkhill then left again onto Park Place).

5) Dundee Dental Hospital & School

The Dental Hospital was first founded in 1914 in a flat in 4 Park Place thanks to members of the Dundee Dental Club, who wanted to provide a free service to those most in need. It expanded into larger premises next door at number 2 in 1916 when the Dental School also opened. The original buildings were joined together with an extension in 1950 and a larger development was planned on the adjacent site, but could not be carried out until the late 1960s. The massive tower block was opened in 1968.

Read about more history of the Dental School from their centenary celebration event.

Research Today:

Today, the School of Dentistry is one of the top in the UK, educating and training the next generation of dental health professionals and serving the public by providing high quality dental care. Their innovative research focuses on developing new materials, guidelines, policies and technologies, for example the development of 3D imaging technologies designed to improve and personalise future orthodontic treatment.  

Dentistry is a blend between dental health, function (eating, speaking) and aesthetics, and it is considered important that treatment is tailored to the individual patient’s desires and expectations. In the branch of Orthodontics the traditional pre-treatment imaging to help inform treatment planning includes X-rays which are traditionally two dimensional profile images. This has been extremely useful, but three dimensional (3D) imaging (examples left) can provide much more comprehensive information, and in the University of Dundee have developed the art and the science of 3D imaging. They believe this has the power to “revolutionise orthodontics” as we develop appliances that combine orthodontics and orthopaedics and can harness growth to maximise effectiveness and reduce treatment time.  The major benefit of this 3D imaging from a public perspective is that using this approach we are able to more precisely measure and predict future growth of the facial bones in children and adolescents and therefore personalise orthodontic treatment for each individual. 

Head back along Park Place towards Nethergate and turn right at back of Tower Building.

6) Carnelley Building

The Carnelley Chemistry Laboratory (pictured right as it appears today) was the first building to be purpose-built for University College, Dundee (now the University of Dundee), opening in 1883. Life Sciences teaching now takes place in the building, which is also home to the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum. D’Arcy Thompson was the University’s first Professor of Biology and a pioneer of mathematical biology. His successor as head of the Natural History department was Doris Mackinnon, an expert on parasitic micro-organisms. She later became Professor of Zoology at Kings College, London - one of the UK’s first women professors.

In this video, museum curator Matthew Jarron tells the stories behind the development of D'Arcy Thompson's Zoology Museum at University College, Dundee and the various institutions and individuals from whom he acquired his specimens.

Research Today:

Today, research into parasites continues at the School of Life Sciences. Parasites are responsible for diseases such as malaria and visceral leishmaniasis. Susan Wyllie (pictured left) and her team from the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research in the School are looking for compounds that can stop the parasites and to understand how they work. 

For many parasitic diseases, doctors only have mediocre medicines whose ‘mode of action’ or ‘means of killing’ parasites are completely unknown. Over the years, drug discovery scientists have learned that if they understand exactly how medicines work to kill microbes, they can make medicines more effective, safer, and cheaper. Additionally, dependence on single treatments has led to parasites gaining resistance. If they know how medicines work, doctors can treat patients with a combination of medicines that work in different but complementary ways. In this way, scientists may be able to defeat the parasite’s abilities to become resistant.

You can learn more about how medicines are made here.

Image (from left): Scanning electron micrographs of the parasites Leishmania major, Trypanosoma brucei and Trypanosoma cruzi (credit: Lorna MacLean).

Continue on to the adjoining building.

7) Old Medical School

Dundee began to establish a Medical School in 1888 and a Faculty of Medicine was formally established when University College became part of the University of St Andrews in 1897. This building opened in 1904 and was the main home of the Medical School for over 60 years. Today the School is based at Ninewells. 

Find out more about the history of Dundee’s Medical School.

Image: Dundee medical graduates, 1909, courtesy of University of Dundee Archives.

Cross over Small's Wynd and head past Fleming Building to Geddes Quad (or to avoid steps, turn right onto Small's Wynd, left onto Peters Lane then follow path behind Peters Building to get to Geddes Quad). 

8) Fleming Building

Image: Fleming Gymnasium, Ewing Building and Cross Row, courtesy of University of Dundee Archives.

Originally built as the University College gymnasium and opened in 1905, this building is named after Robert Fleming, a merchant banker who funded the construction and who was also the grandfather of Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond 007. It is now home to the research laboratory of the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science (LRCFS), where they explore new ways of detecting body fluids and DNA, and research how materials transfer between surfaces and how long they stay once they have transferred - critical questions in understanding the value of evidence in criminal cases.

The Centre is also based in the Ewing Building on Small’s Lane (built for the Electrical Engineering department in 1954) and one of the Victorian tenements on Cross Row. Within the Ewing Building is the LRCFS offices and creative space, where they bring together crime scene investigators, law enforcement, forensic and other scientists, lawyers and members of the judiciary together with the people of Dundee to discuss and develop our understanding of the current research challenges in the use of science in the justice system. No 3 Cross Row houses the LRCFS crime science investigation research facility where they test their research in real world settings so that their work is fit for purpose and not just laboratory-based. They also develop the use of Virtual Reality as a training and investigative tool for crime scene investigation. 

Head on past the Fleming Building to reach the Geddes Quadrangle (or to avoid steps, turn right onto Small's Wynd, left onto Peters Lane then follow the path behind the Peters Building to enter the Quadrangle). 

9) Geddes Quadrangle

This area is named after Patrick Geddes, who was the first Professor of Botany at University College, Dundee. He laid out these and other gardens on campus for teaching use. Geddes had wide-ranging interests and applied ideas from biology to many other fields, including town planning and sociology.

Today, many courses use the University’s Botanic Garden for teaching. Check out various videos created by Botanic Garden staff to learn more about the garden and the plants that live there.

Image left: The Geddes Quadrangle by J McIntosh Patrick, 1984, courtesy of University of Dundee Museum Services.

Look to the building on the west side of the Quadrangle

10) Carnegie Building

The Carnegie Building was built in 1909 as a Physics laboratory. It was in here that ground-breaking work was done from the 1950s to the 1980s on the molecular structure of crystals (a process called X-Ray Crystallography). This technology continues to have important uses for Dundee researchers in DNA, cancer, virus and drug discovery research.

In this video, museum curator Matthew Jarron tells the stories behind Dundee's pioneering role in X-ray crystallography in the Physics and Chemistry departments.

Head past the Peters Building in the north-west corner of the Quadrangle and walk round to the right of the Students Union then left onto the Campus Green and on towards the back of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design.

11) Hawkhill House

This 18th-century house is the oldest building on campus (pictured right as it appears today). For over 40 years it was home to the Botany department (now the Plant Sciences division of the School of Life Sciences) and still houses the University Herbarium (comprising many thousands of plant specimens) as part of the Museum Collections.

Head past back of Matthew Building past row of Victorian houses and onto Dow Street.

12) Medical Sciences Institute

The MSI Building opened in 1970 as part of a major expansion of the newly independent University of Dundee. It housed Anatomy and the rapidly growing Biochemistry department. These subjects have now developed into the world-leading Centre for Anatomy & Human Identification (CAHID) and School of Life Sciences.

Listen to Brian Cox narrate the history of Life Sciences in the University of Dundee 50th Anniversary podcast.

Research Today:

The research of CAHID involves the study of the human body applied across several fields, including anatomical variation, functional and clinical anatomy, and forensic, physical and biological anthropology. Their research helps inform better understanding of the human body and they can use our research to better inform the understanding of the human body and in doing so help to improve the knowledge and skills of doctors, dentists and scientists, who can then take this knowledge out into the wider world.

In their anatomy teaching and research, instead of using traditional methods of embalming, which leave cadavers stiff and unrealistic, they use innovative Thiel-embalmed cadavers. Watch this video to learn more: 

Continue on Dow Street to garden area on your left.

13) Allotments on the site of the Biological Sciences Institute

Biology teaching was also greatly expanded after 1967 and the BSI Building (pictured left) was constructed here to complement the MSI. Teaching now takes place in the Carnelley Building and Old Medical School, and the BSI was recently demolished and replaced with allotments for students and staff. 

Head up Miller's Wynd then turn right onto the footpath along to the Discovery Centre.

14) Medicinal Garden

This area is where the WeeCAIR Medicinal Garden will be. The well-known painkiller aspirin comes from willow bark, for example, and artemisinins, the malaria treatment, comes from sweet wormwood. Once completed the garden will help uncover the history of medicine as well as how plants today are still being researched to help create new medicines. Learn more about this project led by researchers from the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research here.

Image: Medicinal plants from the Tayside Medical History Museum.

Head along Old Hawkhill to the front of the Life Sciences complex.

15) Discovery Centre

The latest addition to the School of Life Sciences was opened in 2014. The building provides additional space for the expanding School with dedicated laboratories for drug discovery, proteomics and computational biology.

Find out how artist Elaine Shemilt created the Scales of Life artwork on the outside of the building.

Image left: The Discovery Centre (right building) and Sir James Black Centre (left building) that form part of the School of Life Sciences.

16) Sir James Black Centre

This building (opened in 2007) is named after the Nobel Prize-winning pharmacologist James Black, who studied in Dundee and later became the University’s Chancellor. He is best known for developing drugs to treat heart disease and stomach ulcers.

Research Today:

Partly housed in the James Black Centre is the world-renowned Drug Discovery Unit. They are leaders in the development of new treatments for infectious diseases of neglected populations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Developing new medicines for malaria, TB, visceral leishmaniasis and Chagas disease. They also specialise in new medicines to treat diseases with a global impact such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and COVID-19.

Learn about the role of the people in the Drug Discovery Unit, who created a compound to treat malaria. Since this video was made in 2015, the compound has progressed through first in human clinical trials. Read more here

You can check out some of the Discovery Centre and the Sir James Black Centre with our online virtual tour created by our colleagues in the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research. 

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