Royal College of Surgeons of England

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Royal College of Surgeons of England
Established1800;224 years ago (1800)
Type Medical royal college
Headquarters Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, England
27,753 (2021) [1]
Tim Mitchell
Affiliations Academy of Medical Royal Colleges
228 (2021)
Website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

The Royal College of Surgeons of England ( RCS England ) is an independent professional body and registered charity that promotes and advances standards of surgical care for patients, and regulates surgery and dentistry in England and Wales. The college is located at Lincoln's Inn Fields in London. It publishes multiple medical journals including the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England , the Faculty Dental Journal , and the Bulletin of the Royal College of Surgeons of England .



Royal College of Surgeons, Court of Examiners (1894) by Henry Jamyn Brooks Henry Jamyn Brooks - The Viva - 1894.jpg
Royal College of Surgeons, Court of Examiners (1894) by Henry Jamyn Brooks

The origins of the college date to the fourteenth century with the foundation of the "Guild of Surgeons Within the City of London". [2] [3] Certain sources date this as occurring in 1368. There was an ongoing dispute between the surgeons and barber surgeons until an agreement was signed between them in 1493, giving the fellowship of surgeons the power of incorporation. [4] This union was formalised further in 1540 by Henry VIII between the Worshipful Company of Barbers (incorporated 1462) and the Guild of Surgeons to form the Company of Barber-Surgeons. In 1745 the surgeons broke away from the barbers to form the Company of Surgeons. [5] In 1800 the company was granted a royal charter to become the Royal College of Surgeons in London. [5] A further charter in 1843 granted it the present title of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. [5]

Members and Fellows of the College

The correct way to address a member or fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons is to use the title Mr, Miss, Mrs, Ms, or Mx (not Dr). This system (which applies only to surgeons, not physicians) has its origins in the 16th century, when surgeons were barber-surgeons and did not have a medical degree (or indeed any formal qualification), unlike physicians, who, by the 18th century, held a university medical degree and could thus be referred to as "Doctor". [ citation needed ]

By the time the College of Surgeons received its royal charter in 1800, the Royal College of Physicians were insisting that candidates for membership of the College of Surgeons must first have a medical degree. [6] Therefore, the ensuing years saw aspiring surgeons having to study medicine first and hence receive the title 'doctor'. Thereafter, having obtained the diploma of Member or Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons he would revert to the title "Mr" as a snub to the RCP. Nowadays the title "Mr" is used by Members of the college who have passed the diploma MRCS examination and the college addresses Members as "Mr" or "Ms". [6]

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles , the distinction is made in the following conversation:

"Come, come, we are not so far wrong after all," said Holmes. "And now, Dr. James Mortimer—"

"Mister, sir, Mister—a humble M.R.C.S."

Despite Mortimer's correction, he is referred to as "Dr. Mortimer" throughout the story.

A biographical register of fellows is available on Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online


The main exhibit room, Hunterian Museum, woodblock engraving by T.H.Shepperd & E.Radclyffe, London, 1853 (Dr. Nuno Carvalho de Sousa collection, Lisbon) 1853 - Hunterian Museum.jpg
The main exhibit room, Hunterian Museum, woodblock engraving by T.H.Shepperd & E.Radclyffe, London, 1853 (Dr. Nuno Carvalho de Sousa collection, Lisbon)

The Company of Surgeons moved from Surgeon's Hall in Old Bailey to a site at 41 Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1797. The British government presented the collection of John Hunter to the surgeons after acquiring it in 1799, and in 1803 the company purchased the adjoining house at 42 Lincoln's Inn Fields to house the collection, which forms the basis of The Hunterian Museum. [ citation needed ]

Construction of the first College building, to a design by George Dance the Younger, and James Lewis, took place on this site from 1805 to 1813. The company soon outgrew these premises and in 1834 No. 40, Lincoln's Inn Fields was acquired and demolished along with the George Dance building, of which only a portion of the portico was retained. Sir Charles Barry won the public competition to design a replacement, constructing a facade largely of artificial stone composed of cast blocks of concrete and stucco. Barry extended this building southwards following the acquisition of Copeland's Warehouse on Portugal Street, and the enlarged buildings opened in 1855. [7]

The college buildings expanded to their current extent between 1888 & 1889, when additional wings were constructed on the sites of numbers 39 & 43 Lincoln's Inn Fields and two storeys were added to the Charles Barry Building by the architect Stephen Salter [7] (b.1826, d.1896). [8]

In 1941 a German incendiary bomb hit the college [9] causing extensive damage that necessitated major rebuilding during the 1950s and 60s. [10] The surviving portion of the earlier buildings were listed Grade II* on 24 February 1958. [11]

Planning consent for a major rebuilding of the non-listed buildings of the Royal College of Surgeons was granted by Westminster City Council in January 2017. [12] The redevelopment of building has been designed by the architecture practice Hawkins\Brown. Barry's famous north frontage and library will be preserved and restored and The Hunterian Museum will benefit from a new façade and entrance on Portugal Street, to the south of the site. A "topping out" ceremony for the new buildings was celebrated on 24 January 2020, [13] but, as of January 2021, the buildings have not re-opened to the public.

The exterior of the building was one of the filming locations of Agatha Christie's Poirot episode The Mystery of the Spanish Chest. [14]

Hunterian Museum

The skeleton of the seven and a half feet (230 cm) tall "Irish Giant" is visible in the middle of this image. Hunterian Collection.jpg
The skeleton of the seven and a half feet (230 cm) tall "Irish Giant" is visible in the middle of this image.

In 1799 the government purchased the collection of John Hunter which they presented to the college. This formed the basis of the Hunterian Collection, which has since been supplemented by others including an Odontological Collection (curated by A. E. W. Miles until the early 1990s) and the natural history collections of Richard Owen.[ citation needed ]

The Hunterian Museum is a member of The London Museums of Health & Medicine group, and displays thousands of anatomical specimens, including the Evelyn tables, surgical instruments, paintings and sculptures about medical individuals and medicine. [15] [16]


Medals, awards and lectures

The Cheselden Medal was instituted in 2009 in honour of William Cheselden "to recognise unique achievements in, and exceptional contributions to, the advancement of surgery". The award is made at irregular intervals to reflect the outstanding qualities required of recipients and is deemed one of the college's highest professional honours. [17]

The Royal Colleges' Bronze Medal was instituted in 1957 and is awarded jointly with the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. It is awarded annually "on the nomination of the Medical Group of the Royal Photographic Society for the outstanding example of photography in the service of medicine and surgery".

The Wood Jones Medal was instituted in 1975 to commemorate Frederic Wood Jones (Sir William Collins Professor of Human and Comparative Anatomy and Conservator of the Anatomy Museum 1945–52). It is awarded occasionally (triennially until 1994) by a Committee "for contributions to anatomical knowledge or the teaching of anatomy in the tradition of Frederic Wood Jones".

The Clement-Price Award was founded in 1958 with a gift of 1,000 guineas from members of the staff of the Westminster Hospital in honour of Sir Clement Price Thomas. It is awarded triennially, or at such other interval as the President may decide, by the council on the recommendation of the Fellowship Election and Prize Committee, "in recognition of meritorious contributions to surgery in its widest sense, without restriction of candidature".[ citation needed ]

The Lister Medal has been awarded since 1924 (mostly on a triennial basis), after the college was entrusted in 1920 with administrating the Lister Memorial Fund, in memory of pioneering British surgeon Joseph Lister. The award is decided in conjunction with the Royal Society, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Glasgow. In addition to being presented with a medal, the recipient delivers the Lister Oration at the college.[ citation needed ]

The Honorary Gold Medal was instituted in 1802 and is awarded at irregular intervals "for liberal acts or distinguished labours, researches and discoveries eminently conducive to the improvement of natural knowledge and of the healing art". Recipients to date include Sir Victor Negus, Sir Geoffrey Keynes, Sir Stanford Cade (all three in 1969), Professor Harold Ellis (1998), Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys (2002) and Dr Barry J. Marshall (2005).

The Bradshaw Lecture was founded in 1875 under the will of Mrs Sally Hall Bradshaw in memory of her husband, Dr William Wood Bradshaw. It is a biennial (annual until 1993) lecture on surgery, customarily given by a senior member of the council on or about the day preceding the second Thursday of December. (Given in alternate years, with the Hunterian Oration given in the intervening years). Not to be confused with the corresponding Bradshaw Lectures delivered to the Royal College of Physicians. See Bradshaw Lecture for list of past lectures and lecturers.

The Hunterian Oration was founded in 1853 when a bequest was made by the executors of John Hunter's will, to provide for an annual dinner and oration in memory of the famous surgeon. It is now delivered biennially.

Educational history

Prior to 1820, to meet the requirements of London's College of Surgeons, students would spend time in London and select courses of instruction in surgery by teachers at Guy's Hospital, St Thomas' – together known as London's Borough Hospitals [18] – and as well as attend anatomy classes at private institutions such as William Hunter's anatomy school, attached for a time to Middlesex Hospital. [19] Although at this time some students of surgery had already acquired the M.D. (or its equivalent) qualification, it was not until the 1830s that students of surgery were required to have obtained a medical degree at a university before commencing studies for membership of the Royal College of Surgeons. [6] By the 1830s, medical schools in London at the University of London, St George's Hospital and King's College, London had been established and the influence of the private schools was diminished. [20]

Today, the RCS offers a range of both on-line e-learning modules and hands-on practical workshops to facilitate the CPD for trainee and consultant surgeons across varies specialties.

Since May 2017, the RCS started to offer a Postgraduate Certificate in Surgery to junior surgical trainees. [21] This qualification combined e-learning modules and practical causes "offer surgical trainees a high-quality, flexible and interactive way to build their surgical knowledge and skills" [21] across different surgical specialties.

Current and past Presidents

NamePresidential term
Tim Mitchell2023–present [22]
Professor Sir Neil Mortensen 2020–2023 [23]
Professor Derek Alderson2017–2020 [24]
Dame Clare Marx DBE2014–2017 [25]
Sir Norman Stanley Williams 2011–2014 [26]
John Black2008–11 [27]
Bernard Ribeiro, Baron Ribeiro 2005–08 [28]
Hugh Phillips 2004–05 [29]
Sir Peter Morris 2001–04 [30]
Sir Barry Jackson 1998–2001 [31]
Sir Rodney Sweetnam 1995–98
Sir Norman Browse 1992–95
Sir Terence English 1989–92
Sir Ian Todd 1986–89
Geoffrey Slaney 1982–86
Sir Alan Parks 1980–82
Sir Reginald Murley 1977–80
Rodney Smith, Baron Smith 1973–77
Sir Edward Muir 1972
Thomas Holmes Sellors 1969–72
Hedley Atkins 1966–69
Russell Brock, Baron Brock 1963–66
Arthur Porritt, Baron Porritt 1960–63 [32]
James Paterson Ross 1957–60
Harry Platt 1954–57
Cecil Wakeley 1949–54
Sir Alfred Webb-Johnson 1941–48
Hugh Lett 1938–40
Cuthbert Sidney Wallace 1935–37
Holburt Jacob Waring 1932–34
Berkeley Moynihan 1926–31
Sir John Bland-Sutton 1923–23
Anthony Alfred Bowlby 1920–22
George Henry Makins 1917–19
Sir William Watson Cheyne 1914–16
Rickman Godlee 1911–1913
Henry Trentham Butlin 1909–11
Sir Henry Morris, 1st Baronet 1906–08
John Tweedy 1903–05
Sir Henry Howse 1901–02
William MacCormac 1896–1900
Christopher Heath 1895
John Whitaker Hulke 1893–94
Thomas Bryant1890–92
Jonathan Hutchinson 1889
Sir William Scovell Savory 1885–88
John Cooper Forster 1884
John Marshall1883
Thomas Spencer Wells 1882
William James Erasmus Wilson 1881
John Eric Erichsen 1880
Luther Holden 1879
John Simon1878
John Birkett 1877
Prescott Gardner Hewett 1876
James Paget 1875
Frederick Le Gros Clark 1874
Thomas Blizard Curling 1873
Henry Hancock1872
George Busk1871
William Fergusson 1870
Edward Cock 1869
Richard Quain 1868
John Hilton 1867
Richard Partridge 1866
Thomas Wormald 1865
Joseph Hodgson 1864
Frederic Carpenter Skey 1863
James Luke1862
Caesar Henry Hawkins 1861
John Flint South 1860
James Moncrieff Arnott 1859
Joseph Henry Green 1858
Edward Stanley 1857
Benjamin Travers 1856
William Lawrence 1855
George James Guthrie 1854
James Luke1853
Caesar Hawkins 1852
John Flint South1851
James Moncrieff Arnott1850
Joseph Henry Green1849
Edward Stanley1848
Benjamin Travers1847
William Lawrence 1846
Samuel Cooper1845
Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, 1st Baronet 1844
John Goldwyer Andrews1843
Anthony White1842
George James Guthrie 1841
John Painter Vincent1840
Robert Keate1839
Honoratus Leigh Thomas 1838
Sir Anthony Carlisle 1837
Astley Paston Cooper 1836
John Goldwyer Andrews1835
Anthony White1834
George James Guthrie 1833
John Painter Vincent 1832
Robert Keate1831
Richard Clement Headington1830
Honoratus Leigh Thomas1829
Sir Anthony Carlisle 1828
Astley Paston Cooper 1827
John Abernethy 1826
William Lynn1825
William Norris1824
Henry Cline 1823
William Blizard 1822
Everard Home 1821–22

Past Masters - Royal College of Surgeons

NameMagisterial term
Thompson Foster1820
Sir David Dundas1819
Thomas Keate 1818
George Chandler1817
Sir James Earle1817
William Norris1816
Henry Cline 1815
William Blizard 1814
Everard Home 1813
Thompson Foster1812
David Dundas1811
Sir Charles Blicke1810
Thomas Keate 1809
George Chandler1808
Sir James Earle1807
Charles Hawkins1806
Thompson Forster1805
David Dundas1804
Sir Charles Blicke1803
Thomas Keate 1802
George Chandler1801
William Long1800

Past Masters - Company of Surgeons

NameMagisterial term
Charles Hawkins1799–1800
James Earle1798
John Gunning1797
Isaac Minors1796
William Cooper1795
William Walker1794
John Wyatt1793
Samuel Howard 1792
William Lucas1791
Charles Hawkins1790
John Gunning1789
Henry Watson1788
Edmund Pitts1787
Isaac Minors1786
Henry Watson1785
Joseph Warner 1784
Richard Grindall1782–3
Peter Triquet1781
Joseph Warner1780
Fleming Pinkstan1779
Pennell Hawkins1778
Robert Young1776–77
Richard Grindall1775
Matthew Spray1774
Joseph Warner1773
John Pyle1772
Wentworth Gregory1770–71
William Bromfield1769
Benjamin Cowell1768
Robert Adair 1767
Stafford Crane1766
Percivall Pott 1765
Robert Young1764
John Blagden1763
John Townsend1762
David Middleton1761
Edward Nourse1760
Christopher Fullagar1759
Mark Hawkins1758
William Singleton1757
John Westbrook1756
Noah Roul1755
James Hickes1754
Legard Sparham1753
John Ranby 1751–52
Peter Sainthill1749–50
Caesar Hawkins1748
John Freke1747
William Cheselden 1746
John Ranby1745

See also

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  1. "Annual report and accounts 2020-21" (PDF). Royal College of Surgeons of England. Retrieved 17 April 2022.
  2. Fu, Louis Kuo Tai (February 2000). "The origins of surgery. 2: From barbers to surgeons". Annals of the College of Surgeons of Hong Kong. 4 (1). Wiley: 35–49. doi:10.1046/j.1442-2034.2000.00029.x. In 1368, a select group of surgeons formed the 'Guild of Surgeons Within the City of London', whose aim was to dissociate themselves from the barbers, but without much success.
  3. Bishop, William John (1995). The Early History of Surgery. New York: Barnes and Noble. ISBN   978-1-56619-798-4.
  4. Whitelaw, W. A., ed. (22 March 2003). The Proceedings of the 12th Annual History of Medicine Days (PDF). Calgary: University of Calgary. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 October 2006. Retrieved 16 October 2006., page 118
  5. 1 2 3 "History of the RCS". Royal College of Surgeons.
  6. 1 2 3 Loudon, I. (2000). "Why are (male) surgeons still addressed as Mr?". BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.). 321 (7276): 1589–1591. doi:10.1136/bmj.321.7276.1589. PMC   1119265 . PMID   11124190. the beginning of the 18th century, when physicians were distinguished by the possession of a university medical degree: an MD. Although many had acquired their MDs abroad with minimal effort or bought them for about £20 (about £800 today) from the University of Aberdeen or of St Andrews, the possession of a medical doctorate entitled physicians and no other medical practitioner to be addressed as "doctor." Eighteenth century surgeons, who were of course addressed as Mr, seldom had any formal qualification except in the case of the few who were Members of the Company of Surgeons. After the founding of the Royal College of Surgeons of London in 1800, however, it was customary for surgeons to take the examination for Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons and put MRCS or MRCSL after their name.
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  14. On Location with Poirot - The Mystery of the Spanish Chest
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  20. Aminoff, M. (2 September 2016). Sir Charles Bell: His Life, Art, Neurological Concepts, and Controversial Legacy. Oxford University Press. p. 167. ISBN   978-0190614973 . Retrieved 15 March 2019. ..Prior to the 1820s, ...candidates for membership of the Royal College of Surgeons spent time in London selecting courses from (St Thomas' and Guy's Hospitals) and private anatomy schools
  21. 1 2 Kane, Nicola. "RCS to offer Postgraduate Certificate in Surgery — Royal College of Surgeons". Royal College of Surgeons. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
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51°30′55″N0°6′57″W / 51.51528°N 0.11583°W / 51.51528; -0.11583