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Veterinary history
Should Burns have been a vet?
  1. J. C. Anderson
  1. Balcamie, 67 Henrietta Street, Girvan, Ayrshire KA26 9AN
  1. e-mail: jc.anderson{at}

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CRAIG Sharp presented a compelling argument that Robert Burns should have been a vet (VR, January 26, 2013, vol 172, pp 103-105). On April 1, 1789, Frances Dunlop wrote to Burns drawing his attention to an advertisement for a professor of agriculture in Edinburgh. She urged him to put himself forward for this position and both she and Dr Moore mentioned Burns's name to the benefactor of the chair. Burns was more realistic and declined to pursue the ‘idle project’ on the grounds that his social position would ensure that he did not succeed in being appointed to the chair (McIntyre 1995).

Mrs Dunlop was always eager to advance Burns's career and thought that he could do better than be an excise-man. Perhaps on this occasion she rightly saw in Burns an extraordinary farmer who was very capable of holding a chair in agriculture.


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