9 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JQ
In the 17th century Edinburgh physicians began to meet in each others’ homes to discuss the regulation of medical practice and ways in which standards in medicine could be improved. Sir Robert Sibbald, an eminent Physician and noted historian was a member of this group. Through his friendship with the King’s Physician, he had the opportunity to petition King Charles II who granted the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh its Royal Charter in 1681. Sir Robert is generally accepted to be the founder of the College.
The founding Fellows of the College were concerned not only with the advancement of medicine as a reputable science, but also with alleviating the miseries of the City’s poor and needy. For more than 300 years, the College has remained independent of control by government and its mission today remains close to the ideals of its founders, namely to promote the highest standards in internal medicine.
The College acts in an advisory capacity to government and other organisations on many aspects of health and welfare and medical education. It was instrumental in founding the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in 1729 and over the years has influenced the development of medical schools in North America, Australasia, Asia and Africa. The College now has over 7,500 Fellows and Members, with more than half living outside the United Kingdom.
The present home of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh was built at9 Queen Street to a design by Thomas Hamilton and completed in 1848. Within20 years, the College was already beginning to outgrow No. 9. The Great Hall was extended by David Bryce to almost twice its original size and the New Library was added to house the increasing number of books. Before this was completed, the College had acquired adjacent premises. Built and decorated to a design by Robert Adam, and the former house of Baron Ord, No 8 Queen Street is an impressive Georgian townhouse built in the early 1770s. In 1969 the College acquired a further adjacent property, behind which the Conference centre was constructed in 1986.
The spectacular stair begins with massive pedestals on which stand bronze urns bought at auction in 1854. The hanging lamps were fuelled originally by oil then gas and then electricity. Medical symbolism abounds. There is a bust of Hippocrates above the central door at the top of the stairs and one of Aesculapius above the entrance to the Hall. The large portraits are of Sir James Young Simpson and Alexander Wood. Simpson, who discovered the anaesthetic use of chloroform, lived at No. 52 Queen Street.
Although part of Hamilton’s original design, the indoor temple like hall was more than doubled in size by David Bryce in 1865. The Corinthian pillarsare lath and plaster. The carpet, a copy of the original, was woven in 1994. On the west frieze are the profiles of William Harvey, Alexander Monro, William Cullen, Edward Jenner and Matthew Baillie; on the south, Galen, Hippocrates and Avicenna; on the east, James Gregory, John Hunter, William Smellie, Herman Boerhaave and Thomas Sydenham; and on the north, John Abercrombie and John Thomson. The bust above the main door is of Aesculapius and the female figure is the goddess Hygeia.
Directions and Access to the College
As a listed building, the College has restricted disabled access. Delegates requiring assistance are asked to use the rear entrance where a wheelchair lift is provided. This entrance gives access to the Conference Centre, Great Hall, New Library and Cullen Suite. Meeting Rooms 1 to 5 and the Seminar Room are not accessible by wheelchair .
The Royal College of Physicians is located within a few minutes walk of the main train and bus stations, hotels and main shopping areas. It is within easy reach by road. Parking is available on street (metered) or at the NCP multi-storey car park, 7 minutes walk from the college. This is accessed from York Place. If you drive east along Queen Street, this road changes into York Place. The car park is signed off to the right. Edinburgh airport is approximately 7 miles from the city centre. Disabled access is available at the rear of the building by prior arrangement. Click here to download Map