School of Medicine (Trinity College, Dublin)

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School of Medicine
Former names
School of Physic (-2005)
Type Medical school

11 August 1711[1][2]

1715 (royal charter)[3]
Interim Head Professor Paul Browne
Location Dublin, Ireland
Campus Trinity College, Dublin
St James's Hospital
Tallaght Hospital
Affiliations Trinity College, Dublin

The School of Medicine at the University of Dublin, Trinity College in Dublin, Republic of Ireland (known until 2005 as the School of Physic), is the oldest medical school in Ireland. Founded in the early eighteenth century, it was originally situated at the site of the current Berkeley Library.[4] As well as providing an undergraduate degree in medicine, the school provides undergraduate courses in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, radiation therapy, human nutrition & dietetics and human health & disease,[5] over 20 taught postgraduate courses, and research degrees.[6]


Medical training has taken place at Trinity College since the seventeenth century, originally on a rather unremarkable basis;[7] extant records suggest that by 1616 only one medical degree had been conferred.[8] In a letter to James Ussher in 1628, Provost William Bedell commented, "I suppose it hath been an error all this time to neglect the faculties of law and physic and attend only to the ordering of one poor College of Divines."[1] From 1618 the post of "Medicus" had existed among the Fellows, this post later being formalised under Bedell's revised College statutes in 1628 and by Royal letters patent in 1637, but in practice the office was usually held by Junior Fellows who did not hold medical degrees and who participated in no real sense in medical education;[2][9] for example, the first Fellow to be chosen Medicus, John Temple (son of the then-Provost of the College, Sir William Temple), went on to pursue a prominent legal career.[2] The Public (later Regius) Professorship of Physic was for the most part used as ceremonial title for a practising doctor.[10] A 17th-century manuscript preserved in the Trinity College Library, describing the ceremonies accompanying conferral of degrees, makes no mention of graduates in medicine.[11]

The first recorded named holder of a Dublin medical degree was John Stearne, a Trinity graduate who had trained as a doctor in England (possibly at Cambridge), and was appointed a Fellow upon returning to Trinity in 1651.[10] From 1662 until his death in 1669 he was Professor of Physic, and during this time was instrumental in the foundation of a college of physicians, which later became the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland; this institution had originally functioned as a daughter institution of Trinity College, located at the former Trinity Hall on Hoggen Green (now College Green).[10] Trinity Hall had been intended as a place of residence and tuition for students of the College, but a dispute arose, as the property fell into disuse and disrepair following the rebellion of 1641, and Dublin Corporation demanded its return, as the conditions by which the Corporation had provided it to the College were not being upheld.[12] The matter was resolved by Stearne, who offered to raise funds to cover the costs of restoring the building (which the College could not afford at the time) as a daughter college for the education of physicians, with Stearne as its president, and with medical students there first becoming members of Trinity;[12] the agreement stated "that the College should have the nomination of the President of the College of Physicians, and that the President and Fellows of that College should give their professional services without fees to the Provost and Senior Fellows of Trinity College and their successors whenever they should require them to attend them during illness."[13]

A "Colledge of Physitians in Dublin" was thus granted a royal charter in 1667, but no records survive from the time of Stearne's death in 1669 to confirm whether medical students from Trinity were in residence,[13] and in subsequent years the College of Physicians gained virtual independence from the university, largely due to the mother institution being unable to supply sufficient qualified physicians to administer it.[10] The College was given the right of granting medical licences within a radius of seven miles of the city of Dublin. In 1692 it was rechartered as the King and Queen's College of Physicians in Ireland, and provision was made for representatives of the College to examine candidates for medical degrees of the University of Dublin—this arrangement persisting until 1760—and for holders of Dublin medical degrees to be admitted without further examination or fees to the College.[13]

By the 18th century, the Board of the College was moved to urgently rectify and formalise the state of its pre-clinical medical education.[1] In 1710 it approved both the construction of a two-storey "Elaboratory" to the west of College Park in Trinity (at the site of the current Berkeley Library), and the establishment of lectureships in anatomy, chemistry and botany.[10] The building was designed by Thomas Burgh and was formally opened on 11 August of the following year with lecture facilities, a dissecting room, a museum and a chemical laboratory.[10] For clinical training, students would then rely on tutorials from the Professor of Physic, and on lectures from same at the Royal College of Physicians.[10] It was agreed with the College of Physicians that, in addition to the normal examinations for all students at the University, medical students would also be examined in "all parts of Anatomy relating to the Œconomia Animalis, and in all parts of Botany, Chemistry, and Pharmacy, and that every candidate Doctor in Physic be examined as to the aforesaid subjects, and likewise in the explanation of Hippocrates' Aphorisms, and in the theory and cure of external and internal diseases."[8]

A bequest drawn up in 1711 by the eminent physician Sir Patrick Dun provided for the endowment of further professorships of physic at Trinity, to be appointed jointly by Trinity, the College of Physicians and the Archbishop of Dublin.[3] To allow this to be carried out, a royal charter was sought to establish the School of Physic under the joint government of both Colleges, and this was granted in 1715.[3]

The school expanded significantly in the first half of the 20th century, with the establishment of professorships in pathology, bacteriology and biochemistry, and lecturerships in radiology, anaesthetics and psychological medicine, among others.[14]


Notable alumni and former students include:


  1. ^ a b c "Dublin University Medical College: Bicentenary of Foundation". The British Medical Journal. 1 (2684): 1305–1309. 8 June 1912. doi:10.1136/bmj.1.2684.1305. JSTOR 25297479. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Beginnings of the School of Physic in the University of Dublin". The British Medical Journal. 2 (1401): 1013–1014. 5 November 1887. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.1401.1001. JSTOR 20213541. 
  3. ^ a b c "The School of Physic in Ireland, and Clinical Teaching". The British Medical Journal. 2 (886): 890–891. 22 December 1877. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.886.890. JSTOR 25246300. ... one or two professors of Physick, to read public lectures and make public anatomical dissections of the several parts of the Human Body's or Body's of other animals, to read Lectures of Osteology, Bandage and Operations of Chirurgery, to read Botanic Lectures, Demonstrate Plants publickly, and to read publick Lectures on Materia Medica, for the Instruction of Studiens of Physic, Surgery, and Pharmacy. 
  4. ^ "1711-1870". Tercentenary Website. School of Medicine, Trinity College, Dublin. 2009-02-19. Retrieved 2009-04-13. 
  5. ^ "Undergraduate – Education". School of Medicine Website. School of Medicine, Trinity College, Dublin. 2009-04-01. Retrieved 2009-04-13. 
  6. ^ "Postgraduate – Education". School of Medicine Website. School of Medicine, Trinity College, Dublin. 2009-03-24. Retrieved 2009-04-13. 
  7. ^ Benson, Charles (1991). "Trinity College: a bibliographical essay". In Holland, Charles Hepworth. Trinity College Dublin and the Idea of a University. Dublin: Trinity College Dublin. p. 362. ISBN 1-871408-05-9. Medicine has had a long, and latterly distinguished, place in college. Teaching began in the seventeenth century, though the training for the first one hundred and fifty years was fairly humdrum. 
  8. ^ a b Dixon, William Macneile (1902). Trinity College, Dublin. College Histories. London: F.E. Robinson & Co. pp. 144–149. OCLC 2572402. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  9. ^ Dixon, William Macneile (1902). Trinity College, Dublin. College Histories. London: F.E. Robinson & Co. pp. 174–175. OCLC 2572402. Retrieved 2010-01-03. From the time of Charles I. two of the Fellows were exempted from taking Orders; one was obliged to study Medicine, the other Law. The Caroline charter runs: 'Finally, we will that each of the Fellows (excepting those two who have given their names to jurisprudence and medicine), within three years after taking the degree of Master, take upon himself the holy order of priesthood.' The two lay Fellows were expected to deliver prælections once a term each in sua facilitate, but the conditions of the tenure of these offices were rarely observed. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Luce, John V. (1992). "Trinity in the age of reason 1717-1794". Trinity College Dublin: The First 400 Years. Dublin: Trinity College Dublin. pp. 46, 47. ISBN 1-871408-06-7. OCLC 26894343. 
  11. ^ Dixon, William Macneile (1902). Trinity College, Dublin. College Histories. London: F.E. Robinson & Co. pp. 89–90. OCLC 2572402. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  12. ^ a b Heron, Denis Caulfield (1847). The constitutional history of the University of Dublin. Dublin: James McGlashan. pp. 55–57. OCLC 03000117. 
  13. ^ a b c Dixon, William Macneile (1902). Trinity College, Dublin. College Histories. London: F.E. Robinson & Co. pp. 23–24. OCLC 2572402. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  14. ^ Bailey, Kenneth Claude (1947). A History of Trinity College Dublin, 1892-1945. Dublin: Trinity College Dublin. p. 84. ISBN 1-871408-05-9. OCLC 146786344. 

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Coordinates: 53°20′35″N 6°15′08″W / 53.342994°N 6.252232°W / 53.342994; -6.252232