FRAUDSTERS, forgers, thieves and body snatchers – meet the scoundrels, wastrels and ne'er-do-wells who studied at Scotland’s first university.

Founded in 1413, the University of St Andrews has educated royalty, politicians, church leaders and athletes.

Celebrated alumni include Prince William, his wife Kate, Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon and former First Minister Alex Salmond.

But little is known about the lesser alumni - the parcel of rogues who once stalked the halls of the famous Fife institution – until now.

The university has created a searchable database which gives an insight into some of the rapscallions who were there between the middle of the 18th and the end of the 19th Centuries.

The Biographical Register holds details of almost 12,000 students and staff, including three body snatchers and two people who are described as having “went to the bad”.

The archive is intended to uncover details of the “movers and shakers” who exerted “influence” on society after leaving St Andrews, according to senior librarian Dr Alice Crawford.

But it can also be searched by subject, and entering the words “murder”, “theft”, “fraud”, “forgery” and “resurrectionist”, throw up some fascinating results.

John Simpson and David Ramsay were students who left the university in 1747 after being involved in a body snatching case in St Andrews. The illegal exhumation of corpses could be a lucrative business because the cadavers were often sold to anatomists and medical students.

Simpson, who went on to become a doctor, was the son of Thomas Simpson, a professor of medicine at the university. Fellow body snatcher Ramsay was also involved in a paternity case in Perthshire village Fowlis Wester and absconded to England before fleeing to the West Indies in 1750.

Former medical student Martin Eccles, who graduated in 1753, worked as a doctor in Edinburgh before he was “accused of resurrectionist activities” – another name for body snatching – a scandal for the son of prominent Edinburgh doctor William Eccles.

In a damning indictment David Watson, who studied at St Andrews until 1889, was described as having “went to the bad” under the ‘career’ section of his archive. The Fifer was involved in a divorce case, fined for travelling on a railway without paying, charged with theft “by paramour” and sentenced to 15 months in prison. He was also declared bankrupt in England and Scotland.

One alumnus – whose subjects included ethics – beat a murder charge after he was involved in a duel. James Stewart of Dunearn, born in 1775, was tried for killing Sir Alexander Boswell of Auchinleck but was acquitted, according to the archive.

The university also had its fair share of thieves and fraudsters, including one David Rattray who stole no less than 63 books from Patrick Bower’s bookshop in St Andrews.

Another former student, Edward Foord Bromley, emigrated to Australia where he was convicted of embezzlement and returned to England in 1829.

Dunfermline-born doctor Martin Fauchie, born in 1827, was convicted of “intoxication and irregular habits”, lost his practice, and ended up in Peeblesshire Poorhouse in 1885.

Former Fifeshire Journal editor Samuel Robinson may well have been one of the pioneers of so-called fake news – he was jailed for five years for forgery in 1862.

And the son of a humanities professor at the university, John Gillespie Hunter, disgraced the family name in 1852 when he was sentenced to 10 years for forgery at the High Court in Edinburgh. He was an accountant at the Edinburgh and Glasgow Bank before his fall from grace.

The searchable website, compiled by former Keeper of Muniments Robert N Smart, also provides details of 21 inventors, 25 poets, 71 politicians and three signatories to the United States Declaration of Independence, including Benjamin Franklin, who was awarded an honorary degree in 1759, some 17 years before the signing..

Included are alumni Isaac Wilson, who officiated at the birth of Queen Victoria, Samuel Foart Simmons who treated the madness of King George III, Michael Cudmore Furnell who discovered chloroform as an anaesthetic in 1847, John Leslie who invented the differential thermometer and Alister Forbes Mackay, the first explorer to reach the magnetic South Pole in 1908.

Originally compiled for the 2004 print edition of the register, the data – which covers the years 1747 to 1897 – has now been made searchable by the university.

Dr Alice Crawford, Senior Librarian (Digital Humanities & Research Computing) at the University said: “This fascinating resource reveals the tales of the many lives which have been touched and formed by the University of St Andrews.

“For the first time the public can now search for this information online and see what an influence the university has been on the movers and shakers of the era.”

The archive can be searched at