Early-Modern Encyclopedia Article Giving the History of the Royal College of Physicians of London

Opening quotation markCOLLEGE 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.Closing quotation mark

SOURCE:  Ephraim Chambers, Cyclopædia, or, an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. 2 vols. London: Printed for J. and J. Knapton, et al., 1728. 1.255–6, s.v. College.