Royal College of Surgeons & Physicians of Glasgow
232-242 St Vincent Street,
+44 (0)141 221 6072
Member access: Monday - Friday 9am-5pm
Public access: Mondays 2pm-5pm (excluding bank holidays)
Research access by appointment.
Please telephone or email to make an appointment to visit. Guided tours are available on request.
Founded in 1599, the RCPSG has a history spanning four centuries. The College enjoys a unique position amongst its sister Colleges in the UK in that its membership includes physicians, surgeons, dentists and specialists in the field of travel medicine.
The College’s founder, Maister Peter Lowe, was a Scottish surgeon who had practiced for a number of years in France. On his return to Scotland he was so horrified at the state of medical practice in Glasgow that he petitioned King James VI to be allowed to establish a regulatory body which would ensure that people acting as doctors (physicians and surgeons) in the city were properly trained. Today, the College offers career support to its membership through education, training, professional development, examinations and assessment, whilst acting as a charity and leading voice on health issues in order to set the highest standards of health care. Membership consists of over 10,000 practitioners worldwide.
In its long history the College has had several homes, initially meeting in different places such as Blackfriars’ Kirk and Hutcheson’s Hospital. The first Faculty Hall was established in the Trongate in 1698 followed by a move in 1791 to larger premises in St Enoch’s Square. A further move was made in 1862 to College’s present building in St Vincent Street.
With over 30,000 volumes, the library dates back to the building of the first Faculty Hall in 1698. The library committee was founded in 1768 and is the oldest committee in College. With its earliest volume dating from 1491, the library now houses works on all aspects of medicine and surgery including very fine and early examples of medical texts from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Because of its close association with the city of Glasgow, the library has built up the Glasgow Collection, books relating to Glasgow and the West of Scotland.
The archives of the College date from the early seventeenth century. The first minute book starts in 1602 and the minutes run with just one gap (from 1688-1733 when a minute book was lost in a fire) up until the present day. The majority of the material dates from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and includes examination registers, minutes and records relating to property including plans of Faculty Hall designed by J.J. Burnet in 1892. A large photographic collection contains portraits of many nineteenth century Fellows as well as covering more recent events. The archive is not a static entity and is being added to regularly so that the history of the College is preserved for future generations.
Over the years, the College has acquired a collection of medical instruments dating from the eighteenth century right up to the present day. Items include the instruments of William Beatty (d.1842), surgeon aboard HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, a pocket set of instruments of the African explorer and missionary David Livingstone (1813-1873), and an operating table devised by the great Glasgow surgeon, Sir William Macewen (1848-1924).
The art collection contains portraits of past presidents by famous Scottish artists such as Sir Henry Raeburn and Sir Daniel Macnee as well as an interesting and growing number of works by young and contemporary artists, many of which have been purchases from the annual exhibition of the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts.