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A Famous and Flourishing Society

The History of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, 1505-2005

Helen Dingwall


This book commemorates the five-hundredth anniversary of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Founded in 1505 it has survived, with difficulty at times, to become one of the leading surgical corporations in Britain.

The original Charter, or Seal of Cause, set out guidelines for the operation of the Incorporation of Barbers and Surgeons, in particular the requirement to study anatomy and the need for examination at the end of apprenticeship in order to ensure that master surgeons were as well trained as they could be at that time. These same guidelines still influence the aims and objectives of the Royal College of Surgeons, though manifest in very different ways in an age of technology and government regulation of surgical training.

The book charts the progress of the institution through five hundred years of change, both in the College itself and in the external local, national and international contexts. The Incorporation began with very local horizons; it now has a global outlook, with some 17,000 Fellows and Members worldwide, and the history aims to explain and account for the many influences which shaped the College into what it is today.

Key Features

  • Lavishly illustrated with colour and b+w photographs and line drawings
  • Based on extensive and unrivalled research into the College's 500-year history
  • Published to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the College


Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Origins and early years, 1505-1581
Chapter 3 Consolidation and organisation, 1581-1726
Chapter 4 Enlightenment to Reform, Incorporation to College, 1726-c1830
Chapter 5 The College in transition- Medical Reform to NHS, c1830-1948
Chapter 6 500 years on - technology, politics, global communication and new horizons, 1948-2005
Chapter 7 The College buildings - symbols of a Famous and Flourishing Society
Chapter 8 Conclusion - The College - past, present and future.

About the Author

Helen Dingwall is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Stirling.


An assiduously researched account
- Rosemary Goring