Guy's Hospital Medical School, 1726-1982

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Guy's Hospital Medical School, 1726-1982

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Guy’s Hospital was founded by Thomas Guy, a bookseller, publisher and investor whose fortune came principally from the South Sea Company, which traded enslaved people from Africa to South America. Guy became a Governor of St Thomas’ Hospital in 1704. In 1721 he was granted a lease of land within the close of St Thomas’ Hospital by the Governors to build a new hospital for the long-term care of the chronically sick and incapacitated. The land was on the south side of St Thomas’ Street and the houses occupying the site were demolished by the end of 1721. The foundations of the building were laid in 1722 and the hospital was opened on 6th January 1726, a year after the death of Thomas Guy. It had accommodation for 435 patients, and 60 were admitted on opening. In accordance with wishes expressed in Guy's will, an Act of Parliament was passed in 1725, establishing the Corporation of Governors for Guy's Hospital. The Governors administered the estates acquired by the hospital and managed the hospital through a committee (the Court of Committees) of twenty-one men named by Guy, including four doctors. The management of the two hospitals was at first closely associated, with Guy's regarded as an annexe or extension to Thomas's. All the arrangements and procedures at St Thomas's were adopted by Guy's, and there were also some joint Governors.

Until the early nineteenth century students at Guy's Hospital were required to serve an apprenticeship of five to seven years, and then 'walk the hospital' as a surgeon's dresser or physician's pupil for six to twelve months. Apprentices, pupils and dressers all attended courses of lectures on anatomy, surgery, midwifery, medicine and chemistry. Teaching was a joint undertaking with nearby St Thomas's Hospital, the two being known as the United Hospitals of the Borough. Students attended operations and lectures at both hospitals. The wards were formally opened to students in 1769 by a Governors' resolution, and marked the beginning of the official union of the schools of the two hospitals. The resolution of the Governors gave an official stamp of approval to existing arrangements, and also proposed that the surgeons of the hospital should occasionally give practical lessons on surgery to the pupils.

In 1770 the Governors started to build the first lecture theatre attached to Guy's Hospital. Dr Saunders lectured there three times a week on chemistry, materia medica and the practice of medicine. Henry Cline the elder (1750-1827) was the first lecturer to attract a large number of pupils and establish a school of anatomy and surgery at St Thomas's. When the School of the United Hospitals came into existence, St Thomas's delivered the anatomical and surgical lectures, which were those most in demand and for which all pupils were prepared to pay fees. Guy's established courses in medicine, chemistry, botany, physiology and natural philosophy. The pupils were apprentices whose masters had instructed them in physic, and went to the hospital for 6 months to a year to complete their training.

Between 1768 and 1825, during the existence of the School of the United Hospitals, Guy's students attended lectures at St Thomas's or private establishments such as the Windmill Street School. A disagreement with St Thomas's over the appointment of a successor to Sir Astley Cooper as Lecturer in Surgery and Anatomy led to the establishment of an independent medical school at Guy's in 1825. The Governors agreed to erect more buildings for the School, and a large lecture theatre (the Anatomical theatre), museum and dissecting room were built. New hospital wards were built and opened in 1831, and special beds were set aside under the care of the Lecturers of the School for Midwifery and Diseases of Women. An Eye infirmary was also established in a nearby house.

In 1835 the curriculum was increased so as to cover a period of three winter and two summer sessions. Until 1849 there was little real clinical teaching by the medical school. Students' appointments were reorganised in 1849 and clinical teaching time was increased. In 1846 the Medical School introduced a common fee for all students, and the Medical Examining Council, later known as the Medical Council, was established to select which students should become dressers, clinical clerks, assistants and resident obstetric clerks. Guy's Medical School was the first to initiate such a system, and other schools soon followed.

A new dissecting room was built in 1850, with the old room used to enlarge the museum. Two small classrooms were added, one for the use of microscopical anatomy. Practical work was at first confined to clinical subjects and anatomy. Demonstrations in practical chemistry were first held in 1852, and in 1862 classes on the use of the microscope began. The classes gradually evolved into practical histology, and were taken over by the Physiology Department in 1871. Practical classes in botany, comparative anatomy and morbid histology appeared in the school prospectus a little later. A classroom for practical chemistry was added in 1871, and in 1873 the dissecting room was enlarged and additional classrooms provided for histology. A Residential College (Guy's Hospital College) was opened in 1890 by William Gladstone, after the number of resident posts was increased in 1888.

The Dental School was founded in 1889, and was an offshoot of the medical school. A course of dental surgery was given by Thomas Bell, Surgeon Dentist to the Hospital, and Mr Salter in 1855. The first lectures at Guy's on dental surgery were given by Joseph Fox in 1799 with the assistance of Astley Cooper. Frederick Newland-Pedley, who became dental surgeon to Guy's in 1887, campaigned for the establishment of a dental school attached to the Hospital. With the support of the Dean the School Meeting appointed a committee in 1888 which drew up a scheme approved by the Hospital Governors, and the school was opened in 1889. New school buildings to house the Dental School and the departments of physics, chemistry and bacteriology were opened in 1893. The number of students and variety of courses soon meant that the dental school outgrew its premises, and between 1909 and 1911 accommodation in the new outpatients' building and in the medical school was fitted and equipped. The school (as part of Guy's Hospital Medical School) was recognised as a school of the University of London in 1900, and a Board of Studies in Dentistry was formed in 1901. The Board drew up a curriculum and established a degree of Bachelor in Dental Surgery. A department of radiology was established in the Dental School in 1913, and in 1920 the first Dental Sub-Dean was appointed. Chairs were established in Dental Prosthetics in 1935, in Dental Surgery in 1938 and in Dental Medicine in 1946. A clinic for the treatment of chronic periodontal disease was founded by F S Warner, later becoming the Department of Preventative Dentistry.

A fifth year was added to the medical curriculum in 1892, and was an important factor leading to the rebuilding of the Medical School. Between 1896 and 1922 a new building was constructed to house the physiology department, a lectureship in experimental pathology was endowed and a new laboratory equipped. The Pathological Department was also refitted, a new library and museum were built and the school buildings were extended to take in the new departments of anatomy and biology. Sir Cosmo O Bonsor became Treasurer of the Hospital in 1896, and took a keen interest in the medical school, which received several important benefactions.

In 1925 a Board of Governors was created and made responsible directly to the Court, and a School Council established to take responsibility for the administration of the school and policy. In 1934 the Medical Research Committee offered to establish and maintain a Clinical Research Unit at Guy's, which was accepted. On the outbreak of the second world war the pre-clinical departments of the school were transferred to Tunbridge Wells, where a mansion was leased and adapted. The school returned to Guy's in 1944. The first women students at Guy's were admitted in 1947, following the Goodenough Report. Twelve were admitted.

On the foundation of the National Health Service in 1948 the Medical School became a separate legal entity from the Hospital. The Medical Schools of Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals reunited as the United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals (UMDS) in 1982. The new institution was then enlarged by the amalgamation of the Royal Dental Hospital of London School of Dental Surgery with Guy's Dental School on 1 August 1983 and the addition on the Institute of Dermatology on 1 August 1985. In 1990 King's College London began discussions with the United Schools and, following formal agreement to merge in 1992 and the King's College London Act 1997, the formal merger with UMDS took place on 1 August 1998. The merger created three new schools: the Guy's, King's and St Thomas' Schools of Medicine, of Dentistry and of Biomedical Sciences, and reconfigured part of the former School of Life, Basic Medical & Health Sciences as the new School of Health & Life Sciences.

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Updated 2021 to include more information on the source of Thomas Guy's wealth.



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