Completed online archives catalogue of 30,000 historical medical records

A two year project by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE), has successfully listed almost 30,000 records in an online catalogue, enabling academics and the public to access a range of fascinating and rare documents from the RCPE’s collection.  These invaluable materials date back to the 17th Century when the College was established and demonstrate the College leading the way in providing medical services, conducting research and regulating the profession.

The online catalogue includes:

The Scottish Women’s Hospital at Royaumont, France 1914–1919

This is a page from a photograph album created by Mary Chapman, a nurse at Royaumont hospital during the First World War. Royaumont was operated by the Scottish Women’s Hospitals from January 1915 to March 1919 at the abbey near Asnières, 30km north of Paris.

This page shows some of the French colonial soldiers from North Africa and the Middle East. There are also three photographs that include Chapman herself with various colleagues.

Seeing the Past: Early Photographs in the RCPE Archive

Over the past few months we have been cataloguing our collection of photographs of the College, these have included photographs of royal visits, College ceremonies and the RCPE’s buildings on Queen Street, dating from the late nineteenth century to today. Especially interesting are the collections dating from before 1950; these include portrait photographs of the College’s presidents from 1895 onwards, in addition to photographs of other notable medical figures such as Robert Knox (1791-1862).

Medical treatment for the poor: The Dispensary

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were, for medicine, notable for their great plurality.  There were all kinds of treatments on offer – healers, quacks, wise women, and itinerant sellers of all manner of cures.  Orthodox medicine, however – practiced by trained and qualified physicians - was largely reserved for the elite.  As hospitals were rare, and often more focused on spiritual wellbeing than medical treatments, wealthy folk were usually treated in their homes – either by a visiting physician, or via correspondence.

Disciplining physicians: frauds, quackery, and Miracle Whirling Spray

Part of the role of the College has always been to regulate the medical profession, to discipline minor infractions and work to keep out the unscrupulous and unethical – by fining them, removing their College membership, and even pursuing them through the courts at our own expense.  Occasionally the College would employ our own private detectives to hunt down particularly difficult individuals.

Doctors on the front line: commemorating the Scottish doctors of WWI

As part of the cataloguing of our archive collections, and in commemoration of the centenary of the First World War,  the College has created an online searchable database of the Scottish Medical Service Emergency Committee.

The Committee was established on 12 August 1914 “for the purposes of assisting to meet the immediate difficulties in regard to medical practice among the civil population which have arisen” and was based within the College at 9 Queen Street, Edinburgh.