On 21 October 1959, the establishment of a Faculty of the History of Medicine and Pharmacy was formally announced by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. Its founding aim was “to foster and extend more general interest in medical history and to attract the co-operation of general historians, so that work in this field may be co-ordinated with wider historical studies.”

The Faculty’s origins can be traced back to a memo “On a Faculty of Historical Medicine”, written by Master Apothecary and rheumatologist W.S.C.Copeman in November 1953. Copeman later became the Faculty’s first President. In his 1953 memo, he reflected that “the status of any profession rests on its active traditions, the appreciation of which, by its members and by the public, alone raises it above a craft.” On 16 November 1955, surgeon Sir Zachary Cope gave the Apothecaries’ first Eponymous Lecture, named after the Society’s founder, Huguenot apothecary Gideon de Laune (1565-1659).  His title was ‘The Influence of the Society of Apothecaries upon Medical Education.’

By the time the Faculty was founded four years later, its aims were set out to run three lectures, including the Gideon de Laune lecture, to support a Research Fellow working on the Society’s Archives, and to attract medical students to encourage their interest in medical history. The inaugural lecture was given on Wednesday 2 December 1959 at 8:30pm by Canon Charles E Raven, previously Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, on “Medicine – Mother of the Sciences.” The first Annual Report in March 1960 records 175 personal members, 42 corporate members and a panel of 22 lecturers offering around 50 lectures to help medical students’ history societies to run their programmes.

As we know, the rest is history... In the last 60 years, the Faculty has grown to support a thriving events programme, renowned courses, Apothecaries’ Lecturers, outreach visits to encourage medical students to engage actively with their professional history, and partnerships with a wide range of related organisations.

Press release 7.10.19

To mark our Diamond Anniversary, we are launching a special fundraising scheme to raise funds specifically to enable the Faculty to pilot new initiatives, such as events with different formats and involvement in innovative partnerships. We would also like to invite members’ views on how we develop these initiatives, suggestions for possible future partner organisations, and ideas for activities and topics for exploration.

We invite Faculty members, and interested parties, to donate £60 to the Diamond Patrons’ Fund to reflect the Faculty’s 60 years. However, all donations are very gratefully received and will enable us to develop our activities.

Diamond Patrons will receive a thank you letter and specially-designed lapel pin to display their support. All Diamond Patrons will also be listed in the Faculty’s Annual Report 2020, and have their names recorded in the Diamond Anniversary Programme, produced specially for the Faculty’s 60th anniversary dinner on 25 June 2020.

Diamond Patrons receive;

  • A thank you letter from the President
  •  Diamond Anniversary Programme; including a thank you in this special publication
  •  A specially designed pin to display their support
  •  All Patrons will be listed in the Faculty’s Annual Report 2020
  •  Your name added to a Patrons plaque which will be displayed at all evening events throughout the Anniversary year

To make a donation, you may pay through our shop, click here.

Alternative Payment options

Bank transfer  Bank name: Coutts & Co
Account name: The Society of Apothecaries
Account number:  05959640
Sort code:  18-00-02
Reference:  Patron/your surname

Cheques - payable to The Society of Apothecaries
Reference:  Patron/your surname
Send for the attention of Maria Ferran, Society of Apothecaries, Black Friar's Lane, London EC4V 6EJ

Thank you for your support! 

Any queries, contact: Maria Ferran

60th Anniversary Celebrations

What to look forward this year;

  • a one day symposium exploring the history of medical botany in partnership with the Friends of the Archives, on 6 May 2020
  • a visit to Chelsea Physic Garden to learn about its historical roots, on 15 June 2020
  • an International Women’s Day event, on 5 March 2020
  • the Faculty are hosting the launch of These Are The Hands, an NHS poetry anthology, in partnership with the Royal College of General Practitioners, in March 2020
  • a 60th anniversary formal dinner, on 25 June 2020