Early 18th-Century Encyclopedia Article Giving the History of the Royal College of Physicians of London
“ COLLEGE of Physicians, a Corporation of Physicians, in London; who, by several Charters and Acts of Parliament of Henry VIII. and his Successors, have certain Privileges, whereby no Man, tho a Graduate in Physick of any University, may, without License under the said College-Seal, practise Physick, in, or within seven Miles of London; nor even in any other part of England, unless he have taken the Degree in one of our own Universities: with Power to administer Oaths, fine and imprison Offenders, in that and several other Particulars: to search the Apothecaries Shops, &c. in and about London to see if their Drugs, &c. be wholesom, and their Compositions according to the Form prescrib’d by the said College in their Dispensatory.
“ By the said Charter they are also freed from all troublesom Offices; as to serve on Juries, be Constable, keep Watch, provide Arms, &c.
“ This Society had anciently a College in Knightrider-street, the Gift of Dr. Linacre, Physician to King Henry VIII. Since that, they have had a House built ’em by the famous Dr. Harvey, in 1652, at the end of Amen-street, which he endow’d with his whole Inheritance in his Lifetime; but this being burnt in the great Fire in 1666, a new one was erected at the Expence of the Fellows, in Warwick Lane; with a noble Library; given partly by the Marquis of Dorchester, and partly by Sir Theodore Mayerne.
“ Of this College there is a President, four Censors, and 12 Electors: The Censors have, by Charter, Power to survey, govern, and arrest all Physicians, or others practising Physick, in, or within seven Miles of London; to fine, amerce, and imprison them at discretion.
“ The Number of Fellows was antiently 30, till King Charles II. increas’d their number to 40; and King James II. giving ’em a new Charter, allow’d the Number of Fellows to be enlarg’d, so as not to exceed fourscore; reserving to himself and Successors, the Power of placing and displacing any of ’em for the future.
“ The College are not very rigorous in asserting their Privileges; there being a great Number of Physicians, some of very good Abilities, who practise in London, &c. without their License; and are conniv’d at by the College: yet, by Law, if any Person, not expresly allow’d to practise, take on him the Cure of any Disease, and the Patient die under his hand, ’tis deem’d Felony in the Practicer.
“ In 1696, the College made a Subscription, to the Number of 42 of their Members, to set on foot a Dispensatory, for the Relief of the sick Poor: since that, they have erected two other Dispensatories. See DISPENSATORY. ”
SOURCE: Ephraim Chambers, Cyclopædia, or, an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. 2 vols. London: Printed for J. and J. Knapton, et al., 1728. i. 255–6, s.v. College.