Records of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

  • Reference
      GB 250 1
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      30.60 Linear Metres

Scope and Content

Minutes, 1602 -current; Widows Fund, 1792-1899; cash books, 1841-1977; examination registers, 1851-current; laws and regulations 1845-current; lists of fellows, 1865-1980; publications, 1832-current; plans, 1892-1995; vaccination registers, 1801-1896; early Faculty records, 1635-1811; Joint Memoranda of Understanding, 1985-1999; Archival Record of Members and Fellows of the College, 1988; correspondence, 1909-2008; photographs and illustrations, 1748-current; project for writing the College history, 1977-1999; papers relating to examinations, 1850-2008; Admissions 1965-current; Education, courses and lectures, 1946-2010; Senior Fellows Club 1976-2005; T.C. White Bequest Fund, 1984-2007; Education and Training Awards, 1977-2007; Library administrative records, 1929-1990; lecture notes1720-1920; case books 1792-1913; medical prescriptions and accounts 1724-1936; manuscript works c.1630-1990; personal papers 1785-1976.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, was founded in 1599 by a Royal Charter which was granted to Peter Lowe (c 1550-1612), a surgeon who trained in France, and Robert Hamilton, Professor of Medicine, by King James VI (1566-1625). The College originally had no corporate name but by the end of the 17th century had come to be known as the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. Powers were granted to examine and regulate surgical practice in the baronies of Glasgow, Renfrew and Dumbarton, and the districts or sheriffdoms of Clydesdale, Renfrew, Lanark, Kyle, Carrick, Ayr and Cunningham; physicians being admitted on production of their MD diploma.

The Faculty was incorporated with the town to gain burghal privileges in 1656 and purchased a property on the Trongate in Glasgow in 1697 which was subsequently demolished. A purpose-built Faculty Hall was erected on the site and occupied in 1698. In 1791, the Faculty moved to a new hall in St Enoch's Square and in 1862 to their current property on St Vincent Street. The Library was founded in 1698. In 1909, the Faculty was allowed to add the prefix "Royal" to its name; and in 1962 the name was again changed to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow to bring it into line with its sister corporations.

The Faculty was unique in that it included the professions of Barber and Apothecary in addition to those of Surgeon and Physician and was the only one of its kind to incorporate all these professions in one body. Relations between the barbers and the surgeons deteriorated in the 17th century until in 1719 the surgeons renounced the Letter of Deaconry granted by the town in 1656, and in 1722 the split between the surgeons and the barbers became final. The barbers received money to the value of their share in the Hall in the Trongate and a new Letter of Deaconry from the town.

The Faculty stoutly defended its right to be the only body in Glasgow responsible for training and maintaining standards against the claims of Glasgow University. This resulted in extensive litigation in the early 19th century over the status of surgical degrees which was eventually settled in its favour. The Faculty offered a Licence for surgeons from 1785 which served as a basic medical qualification. The Double Qualification in medicine and surgery, established with the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, was instituted in 1859 and was replaced by the Triple Qualification in 1884. This was a joint medical qualification between all three Scottish medical colleges. At the end of World War II the Goodenough Committee recommended that a medical degree be the sine qua non of entry to the medical profession. From that time onward the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow has concentrated on the maintenance of standards in postgraduate training and offers examinations in Dentistry, Medicine and Surgery.

Access Information

Access to some items may be restricted. Please contact Heritage staff at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

Other Finding Aids

Descriptive list available at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. See also NRAS Survey 1909.


Johanna Geyer-Kordesch and Fiona Macdonald, Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow, The History of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, 1599-1858, Hambledon Press, 1999Andrew Hull and Johanna Geyer-Kordesch, The Shaping of the Medical Profession, The History of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, 1858-1999, Hambledon Press, 1999James J. Beaton, Roy Miller and Iain T. Boyle (eds), Treasures of the College, Carnyx Group, Glasgow, 1998Fiona Macdonald, 'Vaccination Policy of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow,' Medical History, Vol 41, 1997, pp291-321Alexander Duncan, Memorials of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, 1599-1850, Maclehose and Sons, Glasgow, 1896