History of Health at King's
Gordon Anatomical Museum 1905
King’s College London is a major international research-led teaching institution. With six health schools and a close alignment with its partner National Health Service Trusts (Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College Hospital Trust and the South London and Maudsley Trust), King’s is at the forefront of biomedical research. The College hosts six MRC Centres, more than any other university in the UK.
The Schools of Medicine, Biomedical & Health Sciences and the Dental Institute are located at the world-famous Guy’s, King’s College and St Thomas’ Hospitals. The Institute of Psychiatry is at the equally famous Maudsley Hospital, and the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing is located at the Waterloo Campus, near to its original foundation at St Thomas’ Hospital.
King’s College London was founded in 1829 as a university college in the tradition of the Church of England. When the University of London was established in 1836, King’s became one of its founding colleges.
King’s included a Medical Department from the beginning in 1829. However, as a result of many mergers, including those with the United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals of both hospitals, and in 1768 this arrangement was formalised. However, when in 1825 St Thomas’ Hospital decided to enforce the lapsed system of showing tickets for the operating theatre, a riot broke out. The police were called and six medical students arrested. This riot, and arguments over the ownership of museum specimens and Astley Cooper’s successor, led to the formal breaking of links between St Thomas’ and Guy’s, and the establishment of a separate medical school at Guy’s. The extension of the railway from London Bridge to Charing Cross forced St Thomas’ Hospital to move: first into temporary accommodation in the Surrey Gardens music hall – where the giraffe house was used as a cholera ward and the elephant house as a dissecting room – and then in 1871 into a new hospital building opposite the Houses of Parliament. Florence Nightingale established her school of nursing at St Thomas’ in 1860.
Bethlem Royal Hospital was founded in 1247 by Simon Fitzmary as a priory dedicated to St Mary of Bethlehem. The first definite evidence of its use to house mentally ill patients dates from 1403, making it probably the oldest mental hospital in the world. In 1676 Bethlem moved to Moorfields. In 1815 it moved to St George’s Fields, Southwark. Some of its former buildings there now form part of the Imperial War Museum. In 1930 the Hospital relocated again to Beckenham, South London.
In 1948, Bethlem was united with the Maudsley Hospital and in that same year the Maudsley’s medical school became the independent Institute of Psychiatry in the University of London.
King’s College Hospital
When the Medical Department of King’s began, there were no formal courses, the timetable was chaotic, and students found it difficult to obtain clinical instruction and hospital experience. Robert Bentley Todd joined King’s as Professor of Physiology and Morbid Anatomy in 1836. He radically reformed medical education and campaigned persuasively for the establishment of a new teaching hospital. King’s College Hospital was officially opened in 1840, housed in a former workhouse near the King’s site on the Strand. In 1913, King’s College Hospital moved to Denmark Hill. A dental school and dental hospital were established there in 1923. King’s differed from the older teaching hospitals in that the medical staff had scientific colleagues from other academic faculties. To this can perhaps be attributed the hospital’s encouragement and support of innovative figures such as Joseph Lister.
In 1983 the King’s College Hospital School of Medicine rejoined King’s College London (from which it had separated in 1908). The Institute of Psychiatry joined King’s in 1997, and in 1998 the United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals (UMDS) and King’s College formally merged, creating one of the largest centres for medical training and biomedical research in the UK.