RCS (Eng) at a Glance

Advancing surgical care

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance patient care. We support 20,000 members in the UK and internationally by improving their skills and knowledge, facilitating research and developing policy and guidance.


Clare Lucy Marx


Dame Clare Lucy Marx is President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the first female to hold the position. She qualified in medicine from the University College London Medical School in 1977.[2] Her surgical house jobs were in the London area and later she completed an arthroplasty training at Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston, USA. She became a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at St. Mary`s Hospital and St Charles Hospital London with a particular interest in early surgical education. In 1993 she became clinical director of the combined A&E, Trauma & Orthopaedics and Rheumatology directorate at Ipswich Hospital. Later she chaired the LNC, the Medical Staff Committee and was extensively involved in many of the Hospitals groups for governance and new projects. She was elected to RCS Council in 2009 and reenergised the Patient Safety agenda before also taking on the Chair of the Invited Review Mechanism in 2011. Dame Clare Lucy Marx was elected President of College, taking up post in July 2014.

A fascinating heritage

The College was set up by Royal Charter in 1800 and has a unique heritage and collections.

The Hunterian Museum and surgeon’s library are open to the public in London.
The Wellcome Museum of Anatomy and Pathology is open to members and medical students by appointment.



The Company of Barber-Surgeons, established in 1540, was a trade guild and a London Livery Company that apprenticed and examined trainees within the City of London. Initially the Barbers were the senior members but in time the surgeons became more respected and sought to establish their own identity.

The 18th century

A portrait of John HunterIn 1745, the Barber-Surgeons were split by an Act of Parliament into two bodies at the request of the surgeons. The new Corporation (Company) of Surgeons built a new hall with an anatomy theatre near Newgate Gaol so it could teach and dissect the bodies of executed criminals.

In 1796, the Surgeons bought properties in Lincoln’s Inn fields and applied for a new constitution that would modernise its organisation. At the same time, the government bought the museum of the late surgeon and scientist John Hunter (1728-1793) and gave custody of it to the Company of Surgeons on condition that they opened the museum to medics and students.
The Charters of 1800 and 1843

In 1800, ‘The Royal College of Surgeons in London’ was born on presentation of a new Royal Charter. The new building at Lincoln’s Inn Fields went up and the Hunterian Museum opened in its new home in 1813. The Museum was a key part of the College and steadily increased in size and importance.

A photograph of the College`s Royal CharterIn 1843, a new Royal Charter changed the name to ‘The Royal College of Surgeons of England’, and expanded the remit outside the city of London. The Charter also created a higher qualification, the Fellowship of the College (FRCS). As new developments in areas such as anaesthesia and antiseptics expanded surgical possibilities, the College exams became more rigorous. Specialist subjects were introduced, and from the 1880s the exams were held jointly with the Royal College of Physicians, resulting in the conjoint qualification ‘MRCS LRCP’.

The twentieth century

In 1906 women were allowed to sit the College exams for the first time. Dossibai Patel from Bombay became the first female Member in 1910 and Eleanor Davies-Colley became the first female Fellow in 1911.

The twentieth century saw the College’s advisory role gradually increase. More specialties emerged and became faculties, such as the Faculty of Dental Surgery founded in 1947, with their own diplomas and fellowships.

A photograph of the damage suffered by the college building during the war. During the Second World War the College was hit by incendiary devices, causing massive damage to the building and destroying about a third of the museum specimens. The post-war rebuilding of the College provided the opportunity to rethink its role, and to expand the teaching and research it provided.

By the 1990s things had moved on again. The College was renovated and the Raven Department of Education was opened to provide training facilities.

The twenty-first century

Eagle Education CentreIn 2010 The Royal College of Surgeons opened the doors to its new state-of-the-art clinical skills unit, known as the Eagle Project (named after the College emblem). The three-phased project transformed the College`s education facilities into a national centre of excellence for surgical education, training and assessment, and provides the UK with one of the most advanced surgical teaching facilities in the world.

The College continues its important roles of training, supporting and examining surgeons, auditing clinical effectiveness, and advising the department of health and other bodies.



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