The brilliance of medicine: 500 years of healing

V0013103 Royal College of Physicians, Warwick Lane, London: the court

This special study tour marks the 500th anniversary of the Royal College of Physicians, England and Wales’ oldest royal medical college, by dissecting the development of medicine since 1518. 

Old St Paul's Cathedral Holler (c) universal open access

Over the course of a day, take a route from St Paul’s Cathedral, in the shadow of which the first home of the Royal College of Physicians once stood, via Trafalgar Square where the college had its headquarters for much of the 19th and 20th centuries and up to Regent’s Park, where the organisation is now housed in an icon of post-war British architecture.

RCP Elevation PLan Cropped

The theme is nothing less than the evolution of medicine over the last half millennium.

Andreas Vesalius_s De humani corporis fabrica ii, 1543, with William Harvey's demonsration rod, photograph by John Chase (c) Royal College of Physicians

Uncover how the church held an effective monopoly on healing and believing in the medieval world, explore ancient ideas that helped London survive the calamities of the 17th century, learn about the changes that led to classical thought and the theory of ‘the four humours’ giving way to a new world of science in the Enlightenment, and investigate the Victorians’ attempts to improve public health.

London sewage system under construction c1860 (c) universal open access

From reliquaries to apothecaries, sewers to surgeons, vaccination to anaesthetics, obstetrics and antibiotics, we will examine the major innovations that have shifted medicine from a philosophy to a profession, healthcare from faith to fact.

Kelly, Felix Runcie, 1914-1994; The Old Building of the Royal College of Physicians, Pall Mall

The journey includes a visit to each of the sites of the Royal College of Physicians’ five homes through time, along with – amongst other fascinating sites – the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, the Old Bailey, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London’s Roman Wall, Barber Surgeon’s Hall, the ‘lost hospitals’ of the Savoy, Charing Cross and Soho, the world’s first purpose university medical school and concludes with a visit to the College’s remarkable collections and unique medicinal garden.

Garden of the Royal College of Physicians ix (c) Discover Medical London

Here, in the midst of plants which have played a roll in healthcare stretching far beyond the last 500 years, we consider continuity and change in medicine through the ages. Reflect on the major achievements of the last century in delivering universal healthcare and a pharmaceutical revolution, and look forward to the many challenges, an opportunities, of the future. 

Join us for an unmissable journey through the history of one of medicine’s oldest bodies and the history of medicine itself.


RCP 500 logo

Event details and how to book…

Start:                St Paul’s Cathedral

End:                  Royal College of Physicians

Dates:               25 September 2018

Start Time:      10am

Duration:         7 to 7.5 hours (including break for lucnch)

Price:                £25 per person (excluding transport*, lunch and booking fee)

Click here to book onlineBOOKONLINELOGO_large


* Please note: this tour involves the use of public transport between certain points. All participants should ensure they have an Oyster Card, TfL Travelcard, contactless payment card / device or similar to enable them to make these short journeys.

“The brilliance of medicine” is also available as a private tour at any time by prior arrangement, subject to a minimum charge.

For further details or to make a group booking for a private tour please contact us at 

Click here for a map and directions to the Royal College of Physicians.