In October 1825 Charles was sent with his brother to Edinburgh University to study medicine; his father planned for both his sons to become physicians like himself. Charles and his brother lived at 11 Lothian Street, a few minutes from the University. The brothers enjoyed exploring the bustling city and dining with friends of their father.
However, Darwin did not enjoy the study of medicine. This is apparent from some of the letters he wrote home; ‘I attend Munro on Anatomy— I dislike him & his Lectures so much that I cannot speak with decency about them’. He also did not like surgery and hated the sight of blood— he once left, unable to watch, during an operation on a child at the Royal Infirmary. However, there were aspects of his life and study at Edinburgh that he enjoyed. He liked Thomas Hope’s theatrical chemistry classes and later Robert Jameson’s lectures on zoology and geology. The field trips in Jameson’s course taught Darwin to read strata sequences, which was important training for later in his life. He also occupied himself with coastal walks and bird stuffing classes, taught by the freed slave John Edmonstone.
On returning for his second year at Edinburgh, Darwin’s enthusiasm for his studies had dwindled even more; so much so that he didn’t even join the library that year. However, he joined many student societies, including the Plinian Society (a science club that studied the world from a natural view point as opposed to a supernatural one) and he was later on the society’s council. He listened to talks on various topics, including classification, cuckoos, and local sightings of rare plants. He also spoke himself— his first speech was on 27th March 1827 about the marine biology of the Firth of Forth.
During this period, Grant also talked to Darwin about evolutionary ideas, especially those of Lamark. They discussed the view that all animals showed a ‘unity of plan’, sharing similar organs that were only different in complexity. They considered the identical bones of a bird’s wing, man’s hand and bear’s paw. Grant told Darwin about his own belief - that the common origin of the plant and animal kingdoms lay just below the simplest algae and polyps. This became a very important starting point for Darwin’s own propositions later in life.
All did not end well in Edinburgh. Due to being homesick and hating medicine, Darwin left Edinburgh in April 1827 without a degree. His father was worried about Darwin’s future and thus decided that Charles should have a clerical career. Before he could be ordained he needed to get a degree from an English university and so he went to Cambridge.