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

  • 3 May 2018 5-8pm
  • 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

World AIDS day ribbons

500 years of medicine. The future: The end of AIDS is up to us

  • 24 April 2018 6-7:30pm

Join the Royal College of Physicians for a special free lecture, part of the season marking its 500th anniversary, reflecting on the history and future of medicine, society and health.

In this event, Dr Nneka Nwokolo focuses on the advances made in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of HIV over recent years, and how these major changes have not yet entered the public’s consciousness.

Today, people who receive effective treatment are uninfectious and unable to pass the virus on to others, including sexual partners and unborn babies. Meanwhile, the availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), medication taken by people at risk of catching HIV, has had ground-breaking effects on transmission in many parts of the world.

Whilst stigma and availability of services remain major issues, the means are now in place to halt the spread of the virus and ensure that people with HIV have life expectancies comparable to the general population.

Dr Nneka Nwokolo is a consultant physician at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital where she trained in Sexual Health and HIV Medicine. Her research interests include the prevention of HIV transmission, and she has been involved in initiatives that have resulted in a significant reduction in HIV diagnoses in men who have sex with men in London. She is also interested in the sexual and reproductive health of women, and particularly HIV positive women. She is a passionate advocate for women’s access to HIV prevention strategies including HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Dr Nwokolo will argue that the end of AIDS could be within reach, but success lies in our hands.

Suitable for

  • 16-17
  • 18+

Where

Royal College of Physicians
11 St Andrew’s Place,
Regent’s Park,
London
NW1 4LE

Admission

Free to attend

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/500-years-of-medicine-the-future-the-end-of-aids-is-up-to-us-tickets-44628237259

Professor Dame Carol Black (b.1939). Oil on canvas by Jeff Stultiens, 2006 (c) RCP

In the frame: portraits, power and personality

  • 24 April 2018 6-8pm

Join the Royal College of Physicians for a special event exploring the role of contemporary portraiture and the college's remarkable art collection.

The Royal College of Physicians is one of a very few organisations which continues to commission portraits of its leaders. But how do contemporary portrait artists capture a personality? How do today’s portrait sitters hope to be represented? Do we need to do away with the pomp and ceremony of the past?

What we see depicted in contemporary portraits has evolved dramatically over the centuries. Modern images are less about power and status, frequently in more informal settings, and often in the medium of photography. Today’s sitters and artists seem to favour individuality over prestige.

Compared with the imposing ‘swagger portraits’ of the past, is the twenty-first century simply shy? Or have our values as a society shifted? And how has portraiture changed as issues around representation and diversity have become more widely acknowledged?

Inspired by the RCP’s nationally-significant portrait collection, a panel made up of artists, curators and writers will explore the process by which portraits are commissioned today, the use of symbolism in modern portraits, and the continued fascination of portraiture as a form of representation.

The discussion will also explore the college's astonishing art collection: a visual chronology of the evolution of power, symbolism, even fashion, as gradually the ‘presidential paraphernalia’ that once adorned leaders of the past are dissolved to simple, even abstract, styles.

Among the panel members are artist Paul Benney and photographer and artist Jessica van der Weert.

In 2018, renowned artist, Paul Benney will present his commission of outgoing college president, Professor Jane Dacre. The work will be officially unveiled this autumn; however, this event will feature an exclusive first look at the new portrait. Jessica van der Weert will present her current series of photographic portraits of African physicians, part of the college's fundraising initiative ‘Physicians for Africa’.

The Royal College Physicians Museum will remain open until 8pm as part of the evening, with more than 140 portraits on display throughout the building, including works by Anthony van Dyck, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Lawrence, Elisabeth Frink and Pietro Annigoni.

Current temporary exhibition ‘Ceaseless motion: William Harvey’s experiments in circulation’, featuring an array of images of the medical and scientific pioneer, will also be available to view.

Suitable for

  • 18+
  • 16-17

Admission

Tickets: £8, students and concessions £5

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/in-the-frame-portraits-power-and-personality-tickets-43192320393

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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