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Our College is 420 years old today!

29 Nov 2019

On 29th November 1599, surgeon Peter Lowe and a small group of surgeons, physicians and apothecaries were granted a charter by King James VI of Scotland.

Today is the College’s birthday.

On 29th November 1599, surgeon Peter Lowe and a small group of surgeons, physicians and apothecaries were granted a charter by King James VI of Scotland. The charter set out the responsibilities of a new institution whose aim would be to improve the standards of healthcare of the people of Glasgow and the west of Scotland. The original charter is written in old Scots and contains 8 key points. Here is a very brief, translated version:

Our members will –

  1. Examine anyone who wants to practice surgery, and if found worthy, authorise them to practice. If they practice without authorisation, they will be fined (40 pounds) or imprisoned.
  2. Attend to anyone hurt, murdered or poisoned etc, and report the case to the Magistrate.
  3. Make statutes for the practice of surgery, for the common good of the people.
  4. Check the qualifications and testimonials of physicians before they can practice medicine.
  5. Supervise and control the sale of drugs in the city (under the pain of confiscation).
  6. Regulate the apothecaries who are allowed to sell dangerous substances (e.g. rat poison, arsenic).
  7. Meet on the first Monday of each month to provide care to the poor, for free.
  8. Be exempt from bearing arms and playing a role in any conflicts etc.

The purpose of the College is fundamentally the same as it has always been.

Its first meeting was attended by only a handful of clinicians, and for many years they met in coffee houses and churches. Senior members mentored new admissions and apprentices, and gradually they were able to develop teaching as well as examination as part of their function. Our archives contain the records of all of these first meetings – by far the most important items in our collections.


Category: Engagement

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