After receiving his medical education at Edinburgh and Glasgow, Cruikshank migrated to London where he became assistant to William Hunter, taking over the leadership of the school with Matthew Baillie after Hunter's death in 1783. While at Hunter's school, in addition to dissecting and teaching, Cruikshank undertook experimental research in embryology, neurology and physiology, including studies of 'insensible perspiration', in which he showed that the skin gives off carbon dioxide. A great humanitarian who would open his office to the poor and needy, he was described by Samuel Johnson, one of his patients, as a 'sweet blooded man.' Admiral Nelson and Sir Joshua Reynolds were other distinguished patients. Cruikshank's principal contribution to medicine was his investigation into the lymphatic system, undertaken on Hunter's urging, and with his assistance. The work was to have been published under co-authorship, but Hunter's death prevented this. In this study Cruikshank made valuable discoveries on nerve regeneration and ovum migration. The first edition (1786) was illustrated with three plates, drawn by Frederick Birnie, Hunter's amanuensis, and engraved by J. Thornthwaite. The second edition (1790) added two more plates. Plates 1 & 2 are printed in carmine. A French translation was published at Paris in 1787, and a German one in 1789.