Edinburgh University was founded in 1583 in the then rapidly expanding city of Edinburgh, Scotland. It has more students than any other university in Scotland. Its first building was sited at what is now Old College, the School of Law, in central Edinburgh just south of the Royal Mile. Edinburgh University's first forte in teaching was anatomy and the developing science of surgery, from which it has expanded into many subjects and offers degree courses in more traditional subjects than you could think of (although the Agricultural College has recently closed). The University also offers a number of subjects that are offered in only relatively few other universities, including artificial intelligence in which it is rivalled only by MIT (in the United States).
The University is one of the ancient universities of Scotland, and boasts a student newspaper ("The Student") founded by Robert Louis Stevenson. The two oldest Schools - Law and Divinity - are both well-esteemed in their respective subjects, with Law being based in Old College, and Divinity being based in New College, on the Mound, just in front of the temporary home of the Scottish Parliament.
Along with the expansion in topics of study the university has also expanded its campus such that it now has four main sites; George Square in the center of the city, Pollock Halls adjoining Holyrood Park to the west, Kings Buildings further to the south of the city and Little France to the southeast of the city. George Square campus provides for the majority of the Arts subjects as well as first year undergraduates. Pollock Halls provides the majority of the University accommodation for undergraduates (mostly half board) and was mostly built in the mid-20th century and thus filled with large blocklike towers. Kings Buildings houses most of the Science faculties including a Biology faculty that is a world leader in genetics. Little France was opened in 2000 as a joint project between private finance, the local authorities and the University to create a large modern hospital, veterinary clinic and research institute and thus the University is currently 2002 in the process of moving its Veterinary and Medical Faculties there (and quite possible also the School of Nursing). The Moray House campus is being amalgamated with the George Square campus through simple ownership of all the intervening land. The Moray House campus used to be the Moray House Institute for Education and was acquired by Edinburgh University around 1998. The University has since extended it and agglomerated it with its own Sports Institute along with a large new building to house the expanding Institutes.
The School of Informatics was created in 1999 by amalgamating the Department of Artificial Intelligence (DAI), the Department of Computer Science (DCS), the Department of Cognitive Science (CogSci), the Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute, the Institute of Adaptive and Neural Computing and a number of other associated Institutes and computing groups. However this has posed a problem for the School as DAI already had two different buildings (George Square), CogSci had another (George Square) and DCS was housed at another site entirely (Kings Buildings), as well as having three entirely different computer networks (all based on Sun servers, though DCS had been developing the idea of Linux clients). This has lead to the adopting of LCFG (a Unix configuration system) and a joint initiative with CERN (Geneva) to create a centrally managed computer network where clients are entirely updatable from central servers. These servers however all have duplicates at each building to allow for network failure so as to interrupt internal services as little as possible. This project is based on Linux with all clients and servers running standardised software dependent on the machines' function. The Cowgate fire of December 2002 destroyed one of the buildings of the old AI department, and damaged the renowned AI library.
The University has had many famous alumni, including:
- Gordon Brown
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- Charles Darwin
- Klaus Fuchs
- David Hume
- David MacRitchie
- Stella Rimington
- Sir Walter Scott
- James Clerk Maxwell