(For the Welfare of London)
The Medical Society of London, founded in 1773, unlike the other societies at the time was not restricted to naval surgeons, or to hospital physicians, to licentiates of the Royal College or those associated with a particular hospital. It was however established as a forum for physicians, surgeons, apothecaries and accoucheurs to give them the opportunity of meeting together for the exchange of medical intelligence. There was no other society where the different branches of the medical profession could meet on equal terms to learn from one another.
The charter of the Medical Society of London was
“..to give the practitioners in the healing art frequent opportunities of meeting together, and conferring with each other concerning difficult or uncommon cases which may have occurred; or communicating any new discoveries in medicine which may have been made at home or abroad”
Of the twelve medical societies born in London in the second half of the eighteenth century, six survived to 1800, decreasing to only four by 1810. Later the Hunterian Society, founded in 1819 and the Harveian Society of London, founded in 1831 were established and still hold their meetings at the Medical Society of London’s premises at Lettsom House.
The Medical Society of London was the initiative and instrument of Dr John Coakley Lettsom. When he founded the Society in 1773 he had already established the General Dispensary, written three publications, set up in practice, married an heiress, been elected to the fellowship of the Society of Antiquaries and he was to be a Fellow of the Royal Society before the end of the year. Over the next forty years he reigned supreme over the medical milieu of London, tending to the sick and poor in their homes and attending the Lord Chancellor, dining with Dr Johnson and entertaining Dr Boswell, founding societies and charities that exist to this day and writing treatises on subjects that ranged from the mangel-wurzel to card parties.
Since 1872, the Society has published the content of its meetings in its own publication, “The Transactions of the Medical Society of London”. The Society holds a complete set at Lettsom House and copies are held by the British Library and other Legal Deposit Libraries that have requested it. It is intended to develop the publishing process such that a copy of the current volume can be held in the Fellows’ area of this website.