Andrew Duncan was a respected physician, lecturer and an important institutional innovator in the field of medicine. After finishing his medical studies in 1768, Duncan travelled to China as a surgeon on board an East India Company ship. He returned to Scotland the following year and joined the Edinburgh College of Physicians as a lecturer. Although repeatedly passed over for professorships, he was elected six times as President of the Royal Medical Society. His interest in public health led him to establish Edinburgh’s Royal Public Dispensary, which gave free medicines and advice to the poor. He later founded a public lunatic asylum. In 1790 he was elected President of the Royal College of Physicians and was finally appointed to the University’s chair of Institutes of Medicine.