Royal College of Physicians

Royal College of Physicians - interior
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The Royal College of Physicians is the oldest medical college in England. Since our foundation by royal charter of Henry VIII in 1518, the RCP has built up magnificent collections of books, manuscripts, portraits, silver, and medical artefacts.

Visit us to experience extraordinary historical and ceremonial spaces set inside a radically modern building created by Sir Denys Lasdun in 1964.

Our portrait galleries reveal eminent physicians by some of Britain's greatest artists. Our silver collection has been used for centuries in ceremonies and fine dining. Our medical instrument collections include early stethoscopes, bleeding tools, apothecary jars and a rare set of 17th century human remains - our anatomical tables.

Guided tours can be booked in advance for groups of 6+.

Venue Type:

Gallery, Museum

Opening hours

Mon-Fri 9.00-17.00

Closed: Public holidays and ceremonial days - see website for details

Admission charges

Free

Getting there

The Royal College of Physicians is located next to Regent's Park in the centre of London. It is easily accessible by all forms of transport.

The main entrance can be reached by approaching the Outer Circle from Park Square East and the A501 Marylebone Road.

By underground:
Regent's Park Station on the Bakerloo line (3 minutes' walk)
Great Portland Street Station on the Circle, Metropolitan and City lines (5 minutes' walk)
Warren Street Station on the Victoria and Northern lines (10 minutes' walk)

By train:
Euston Station (15 minutes' walk)
King's Cross Station (5 minutes by taxi)
St Pancras Station - Eurostar terminal (5 minutes by taxi)
Marylebone Station (5 minutes by taxi)

By road:
From the north: A4201 Albany Street from A41 North, the M1, A1, M40 and M25
From the east: A501 Euston Road from A13 East, the M25, the M20 and the M2
From the west: A501 Marylebone Road from A40 Westway, the M4 Heathrow and the M25
From the south: A4201 Portland Place from Westminster and the A23, M25 and M23 Gatwick

The collections of the Royal College of Physicians relate to the history of the College and the history of the Physician’s profession. They include; portraits, silver, medals, medical artefacts and instruments. They are on display throughout the College's building.

The portraits form a record of the most eminent figures in the history of medicine from the 16th century to the present day. We hold 350 oil portraits and 4000 prints. The collection includes outstanding pieces such as the busts of Baldwin Hamey Junior (1600-1676) by Edward Pierce and Richard Mead (1673-1754) by Louis François Roubiliac. Major painters represented include Godfrey Kneller, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Hudson, Johann Zoffany and Thomas Lawrence.

The silver collection reflects events in College history as well as the lives and generosity of its Fellows and Members. Few pieces pre-date the Great Fire of London in 1666 because of a robbery during the previous year. Baldwin Hamey’s inkstand bell and William Harvey’s demonstration rod are two of the pieces that survive. Many pieces of silver are ‘working’ objects and are used to this day for formal occasions in the College. Special objects include the President’s staff of office, the silver caduceus and the silver-gilt College mace.

The College also owns six seventeenth century anatomical tables, made by drying and mounting the blood vessels and nerves of the human body onto blocks of wood which were then varnished and used as a teaching aid for the study of anatomy. The Symons Collection of medical instruments began as a group of objects relating to self-care in Georgian times and expanded to include items that would have been used by physicians when treating patients in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

For further information go to www.rcplondon.ac.uk/museum-and-garden

Collection details

Archives, Coins and Medals, Decorative and Applied Art, Fine Art, Medicine, Personalities, Science and Technology, Social History

Key artists and exhibits

  • medical instruments
  • anatomy
  • medicine
  • physician
  • Doctor
  • William Hunter
  • William Harvey
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
Image of William Harvey's medical diploma issued by the University of Padua in 1602

Ceaseless motion: William Harvey’s experiments in circulation

  • 19 January — 26 July 2018 *on now

Working from his London home in the shadow of old St Paul’s cathedral in the midst of the bloody 17th century, William Harvey, doctor and anatomist, changed the way we view life itself.

Harvey’s experiments, his observations of the beating hearts of animals from dogs to eels, crows to wasps, and the dissections of the bodies of hanged men he carried out at the neighbouring Royal College of Physicians, revealed a revolutionary new truth.

Blood was not, as had been thought for almost 2000 years, ‘cooked’ in the liver, but circulated around the body from the heart. This startling realisation not only overturned nearly two millennia of received knowledge, but gave birth to modern medicine and scientific method, and spelled a slow death sentence for the ancient art of blood-letting.

This new exhibition dissects Harvey’s work, how it was received in his lifetime and the legacy of man as important to the development of medicine as Newton was to physics and Darwin to biology

On display from the Royal College of Physician’s own astonishing collections come antique copies of works by the long-established medical authorities of Harvey’s time. These are shown alongside Harvey’s few remaining personal effects, including his original Diploma of Medicine, awarded by the University of Padua in 1602, the demonstration rod he used during his anatomy lectures, plus rare letters written in his own hand.

The exhibition’s most vital objects are Harvey’s seminal publication, de Mortu Cordis, in a first edition of 1628 and the first English language version published in 1653. Other 17th century texts reveal how reaction to the work at the time was mixed. Books and prints from the birth of the age of enlightenment tell a story of initial hostility giving way to an acceptance and appreciation of Harvey’s ground-breaking experimental science.

With an array of images of Harvey from his own time and after, including the famous Daniel Mijtens’ portrait on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, the historical picture is complete.

From our contemporary world, a new work by the award winning artist Angela Palmer, ‘a heart in glass’ pays stunning modern tribute to William Harvey and his discoveries.

Part of the Royal College of Physicians 500th anniversary celebrations, this new exhibition sheds a revealing light on a giant of medicine and anatomy, whose name deserves to be as universally recognised as the other geniuses of the Scientific Revolution.

Suitable for

  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+

Admission

9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday only
Please see website for details of late openings, special events and additional closure days

Website

https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/events/ceaseless-motion-william-harveys-experiments-circulation

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Image of the Lasdun Hall at the Royal College of Physicians

Royal College of Physicians: Museum Lates

  • 7 June 2018 5-8pm
  • 5 July 2018 5-8pm
  • 2 August 2018 5-8pm
  • 6 September 2018 5-8pm
  • 4 October 2018 5-8pm
  • 1 November 2018 5-8pm
  • 6 December 2018 5-8pm

In celebration of the Royal College of Physicians’ 500th anniversary, the college’s museum is opening late on the first Thursday of the month during 2018.

Discover truly remarkable – but surprisingly little known – collections, featuring everything from artworks by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Thomas Lawrence and Johann Zoffany, to scarce anatomical preparations and extraordinary medical instruments, all housed in a grade 1 listed ‘modernist masterpiece’ by Sir Denys Lasdun.

See free temporary exhibitions from our award winning team or take a brand new heritage trail through the last five hundred years examining the curious intersection of medicine, art and society.

Highlights of any visit include:

• priceless portraits and silver displayed throughout the building
• medical rarities such as the Symons collection of self-care instruments and medical apparatus, the Hoffbrand collection of apothecary jars and the Prujean chest of surgical tools from the time of the English Civil War
• an extraordinary set of 17th-century human remains, providing a fascinating insight into dissection and discovery in anatomy
• regular displays from our archive and rare books collections

Mark 500 years since Henry VIII brought England’s oldest royal medical college into existence by exploring five centuries of medicine, history, art and ideas in a museum half a millennium old.

Suitable for

  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+

Website

https://history.rcplondon.ac.uk/event/museum-late

The Cow Pow, a cartoon satirizing doctors from the 18th century by James Gillray

500 years of medicine: Discover Medical London Walking Tours

  • 24 May — 25 October 2018 *on now

How did one of the world's greatest cities become a capital of medicine?
Find out in a series of weekly, individually-themed medical history guided walks and tours, brought to you in association with the Royal College of Physicians, England's oldest medical college, celebrating its 500th anniversary in 2018.
Join Discover Medical London's team of professional guides as they lead you through the streets and stories that have made London a centre of sickness and home to healing across the centuries.
From blue-blooded royalty to body snatchers, anatomists to anaesthetists, physicians, pharmacists and the founders of the NHS.
Encounter the fascinating people and places that have made medical London
All walks commence at 2pm on Thursdays between May and October at the Royal College of Physicians and last around 2½ to 3 hours including a highlights tour of the college, its museum, garden and collections.
Find our calendar of individually themed tours and book your place at:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/500-years-of-medicine-discover-medical-london-walking-tours-tickets-45759897084

Suitable for

  • 14-15
  • 18+
  • 16-17
  • 11-13

Admission

£12 per person

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/500-years-of-medicine-discover-medical-london-walking-tours-tickets-45759897084

Flowers in the grounds of Royal College of Physicians, London

Summer in the medicinal garden: A series of afternoons exploring medical plants and herbal medicines

  • 11 June 2018 1:30-6pm
  • 16 July 2018 1:30-6pm
  • 10 September 2018 1:30-6pm

Join the Royal College of Physicians in their medicinal garden for a series of three afternoons exploring medical plants and herbal remedies past and present, celebrating the College’s 500th anniversary.

World renowned experts deliver talks on themes as diverse as plants in anaesthesia, the 400th birthday of one of Britain’s most influential book of medicines, poisons in the works of Agatha Christie, addictive herbs and modern food supplements.

With themed lectures, an expert-led garden tour and refreshments included each afternoon, there can be no better way to discover one of London’s most fascinating botanical gems this summer.

All events cost just £10 and are sure to sell out quickly. Reserve your place now using the links below.

Monday, 11 June 2018
A history of plants in anaesthesia by Dr David Wilkinson, former consultant anaesthetist, St Bartholomew’s Hospital and ‘Unicorn Horn and London Treacle’ a celebration of the 400th birthday of the publication of Pharmacopeia Londinensis by Tony Cartwright, retired pharmaceutical regulatory consultant.

Tickets for this event also include admission to the Poynter Lecture of the British Society for the History of Medicine at 6pm: ‘The Doctor as Collector’ by Dr Simon Chaplin, Director of Culture and Society at the Wellcome Trust.

For bookings, visit https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/events/medicinal-plant-lecture-historical-sidelights-and-poynter-lecture

Monday, 16 July 2018
Plants poison in the works of Agatha Christie, by Dr Kathryn Harkup, author of ‘A is for Arsenic: the poisons of Agatha Christie’ and a study of addictive substances derived from plants, from alcohol to morphine and cocaine, by Professor Graham Foster, Royal College of Physicians Garden Fellow and Professor of Hepatology.

For bookings, visit https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/events/medicinal-plant-lecture-dangerous-plants-0

Monday, 10 September 2018
‘Neutraceuticals’, Professor Ruth Andrew of the University of Edinburgh examines plant-based supplements and fortified food, and ‘Oranges and Lemons’ the true story of citrus fruits in scurvy told by Dr Henry Oakeley, Royal College of Physicians Garden Fellow and retired consultant psychiatrist.

For bookings, visit https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/events/medicinal-plant-lecture-food-supplements-plants

Programme
1.30pm Registration with refreshments
2pm First lecture
3pm Tea and coffee with garden tours of relevant plants by Royal College Garden Fellows
4pm Second lecture
5pm Drinks reception
6pm Event finishes

Suitable for

  • 16-17
  • 18+

Admission

£10 for two lectures and an expert-led garden tour

Website

https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/events/medicinal-plant-lecture-historical-sidelights-and-poynter-lecture

Getting there

The Royal College of Physicians is located next to Regent's Park in the centre of London. It is easily accessible by all forms of transport.

The main entrance can be reached by approaching the Outer Circle from Park Square East and the A501 Marylebone Road.

By underground:
Regent's Park Station on the Bakerloo line (3 minutes' walk)
Great Portland Street Station on the Circle, Metropolitan and City lines (5 minutes' walk)
Warren Street Station on the Victoria and Northern lines (10 minutes' walk)

By train:
Euston Station (15 minutes' walk)
King's Cross Station (5 minutes by taxi)
St Pancras Station - Eurostar terminal (5 minutes by taxi)
Marylebone Station (5 minutes by taxi)

By road:
From the north: A4201 Albany Street from A41 North, the M1, A1, M40 and M25
From the east: A501 Euston Road from A13 East, the M25, the M20 and the M2
From the west: A501 Marylebone Road from A40 Westway, the M4 Heathrow and the M25
From the south: A4201 Portland Place from Westminster and the A23, M25 and M23 Gatwick

Royal College of Physicians
11 St. Andrews Place
Regent's Park
London
Greater London
NW1 4LE
England

Website

www.rcplondon.ac.uk/museum-and-garden

E-mail

history@rcplondon.ac.uk

Telephone

0203 075 1543

Fax

020 7486 3729

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
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