THE consultation letters of a leading 18th century Scottish medic whose patients included Samuel Johnson are now available to view online.

For the last four years, researchers from the University of Glasgow have been creating a publicly accessible digital edition of the medical correspondence of Dr William Cullen, one of the treasures held by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

Cullen, who began his career as a medical lecturer and chemistry teacher at Glasgow University kept all his letters and responses building up a collection of over 5000 items.

As the pre-eminent Scottish medical figure of his day, his opinion was in high demand and people wrote to him from around the world requesting his advice on treatments.

A Scottish plantation owner wrote from Charleston asking how to cure an American slave's epilepsy, there were enquiries about a Russian Princess with gout and a patient who became ill after eating too many cucumbers.

Until today Cullen's papers could only be accessed by visiting the Sibbald Library. Over 300 years after his birth, the launch of the interactive web edition will widen access and provide a resource for academics, practitioners, students and anyone who wants to learn more about the history of medicine and the 18th century.

Dr David Shuttleton, Reader in literature and medical culture at Glasgow University who lead the project, said: "We are delighted to be able to make this new interactive archive available to the general public.

"What makes the resource so valuable is not simply the size of it, but being able to hear the diverse voices from the broad range of people Cullen corresponded with.

"Until now, the sheer physical scale of this archive prevented these important historical artefacts from being studied properly but we believe this new resource will offer considerable new insights, not only into the history of 18th century medical practice, but also into wider society at that time."