It was not until the 1760s that the first Russian students came to Britain to study at the University of Glasgow. However, University of Glasgow students had travelled to Russia before then, and among some of the earliest students to become prominent names in Russia were:
Thomas Garvine, surgeon in St Petersburg in 1713, during the reign of Czar Peter the Great. Possibly the Thomas Garvin who studied under the philosopher Gerschom Carmichael in 1708, and who was apprenticed to John Marshall, surgeon of Glasgow, keeper of the University’s physic garden and lecturer of botany from 1704. Garvine was also sent on the first Russian medical mission to China (1715 – 1718) where he mastered the Chinese method of smallpox inoculation.
John Robison, MA (1756), LLD (1799) and lecturer of Chemistry (1766-1769), was private secretary to Admiral Knowles in St Petersburg, where Knowles had been appointed by Catherine the Great to reform the Russian navy in 1770. By 1772, Robison, sufficiently fluent in Russian, had gained a professorship in mathematics at the Kronstadt naval academy, and rose through the ranks from Inspector-General of the Marine Cadet Corps of Nobles at Kronstadt to colonel. With his resignation in 1774, Robison was granted a pension by Empress Catherine and elected as a foreign member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences in 1800.
William Richardson, MA (1763) and Professor of Humanity (1773), was tutor to the sons of and secretary (1768-1772) to Lord Charles Cathcart while he was British Ambassador at St Petersburg. He published Anecdotes of the Russian empire; in a series of letters, written, a few years ago, from St. Petersburg, (1784) which provided a thorough account of contemporary eighteenth-century Russian society.
John Grieve, MA & MD (1777), served in Russia as a military doctor in the Voronezh Division (1778-1783), and during this time pioneered British knowledge of koumiss (fermented mare’s milk). Returning to Russia in 1798, he served as court physician to Emperor Paul I, and subsequently to Emperor Alexander I.