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From the Grand Canal to the Dodder

This year the 250th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Colles (1773 – 1843) has been uppermost in our minds in RCSI Heritage Collections. In 2021, Sir Charles Cameron (1830 – 1921) was our focus, as we marked the centenary of his death. Both figures were, of course, Presidents of RCSI. But they were also, it turns out, neighbours. Well, neighbours in space, if not exactly in time. At different points in their lives, they were both residents of that leafy section of the city later known as Dublin 4. Colles lived for a time in Donnybrook Cottage on the Stillorgan Road, while Cameron set up home at 27 Raglan Road in Ballsbridge. This connection was brought to our attention by a recent book, From the Grand Canal to the Dodder: Illustrious Lives (The History Press, 2020). The RCSI connections continue, however: the author of this fascinating volume is Dr Beatrice M. Doran, who was RCSI’s Chief Librarian from 1986 to 2007. From the Grand Canal to the Dodder is Dr Doran’s third book on th
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Kathleen Trousdell Shaw: A Woman Among Men

We love disovering new things about the heritage and art collections in RCSI. Just a few months ago, we learned that the bust of Dr John Denham (PRCSI 1873) in our portrait sculpture collection was created by Anglo-Irish sculptor Kathleen Trousdell Shaw (1865-1958).  Shaw's bust of Denham is remarkable not just for its exquisite detail but for the fact that it is the only bust in the historical art collections known to have been created by a woman. But why didn't we know this beforehand? When we talk about our painted and sculptural portrait collections, our focus has tended to be on the sitter. Who was this person? What was their contribution to RCSI or to surgery and medicine more generally? What does their portrait say about them? As we continue to interrogate our collections, however, this focus is shifting to include the story of the artists that created these pieces. Kathleen Trousdell Shaw's artist inscription on the Denham bust is simply 'K.T. Shaw, 1889'. T

Charms, cures, surgical skills and the supremacy of the Arderne manuscript

RCSI Heritage Collections houses a medieval medical manuscript of unique research interest. Ten years ago, our then special collections librarian wrote a  blog post on the ‘Lentaigne Manuscript’  (RCSI/MS/97), telling of the history of the 1851 donation to RCSI Library and its Lentaigne namesake, and referencing previous research published in 1943, by the late RCSI Professor J.D.H. Widdess ( PRACTICA MAGISTRI JOHANNIS ARDERNE. (An Account of an early 15th Century Manuscript in the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland .) Recently, a new piece of research on RCSI/MS/97 has been published by Peter Murray Jones , Fellow, King's College, Cambridge, giving us more to know and love about RCSI’s own ‘Arderne Manuscript’. RCSI/MS/97 - marginalia and illustrations appear throughout the manuscript Master surgeon John Arderne (1307–c.1380) had served King Edward III as an army surgeon at the battle of Crécy in 1346. In 1376, Arderne wrote PRACTICA MAGISTRI JOHANNIS ARDERNE, whic

One Dublin, One Book: 'The Coroner's Daughter' meets RCSI Heritage

  This year’s One Dublin, One Book, The Coroner’s Daughter , is historical fiction and a crime novel, set in the Dublin of 1816. Moreover, it is medical historical fiction, and imagined around an RCSI anatomist. So, with this book in our minds, let’s take a glimpse at the archives with RCSI Heritage Collections. In the year 1816, RCSI had been operating under its First Charter, which was granted to the College by George III in 1784. The surgeons had formally broken the historical ties with the Guild of Barber-Surgeons- a goal the College founders had set out to achieve when they met and formed the Dublin Society of Surgeons in 1783.   RCSI was established to set and support professional standards for surgical training and practice. RCSI Royal Charter, 1784 Rules of the Dublin Society of Surgeons, 1783   The backdrop of ‘the College of Surgeons’ in 1816 would have been the first iteration of the building erected on a disused Quaker burial ground, on St. Stephen’s Green and the cor

RCSI Heritage Collections awarded funding to celebrate the legacy of pioneering Irish surgeon Abraham Colles

RCSI Heritage Collections has been awarded funding from the Heritage Council to celebrate the life and legacy of pioneering Irish surgeon Abraham Colles on the 250th anniversary of his birth in 2023. Abraham Colles (1773-1843) was a surgeon, physician, and anatomist, and a leading figure in the golden age of Irish medicine in the 19th century. He also had a strong connection with RCSI being a past pupil, professor and President of the College. Colles revolutionised the teaching of anatomy in medical schools around the world with the publication of his ground-breaking Treatise on Surgical Anatomy in 1811. This work prompted a radical departure from established approaches to the study of human anatomy and proposed a new model of teaching that lent itself much more readily to the realities of clinical practice for surgeons and physicians in the nineteenth century. This innovative approach to the teaching of anatomy paved the way for new discoveries and fresh observations regarding the in

Celebrating International Women’s Day: From the College Archive

Continuing our deep dive into the history of the RCSI Biological Society (check out last month’s BioSoc post for LGBT+ History Month ), we’re flying the flag for the first women of BioSoc this International Women’s Day. The RCSI Biological Society (BioSoc) is the official student society of RCSI and one of the oldest student medical societies in the world.  Women have been consistently well-represented in successive BioSoc Committees since its inception in the 1930s. The Society appointed its first female President - Dr Margaret (Pearl) Dunleavy - in 1951. Two decades earlier, the opening paper presented at the first Inaugural Meeting in Feb 1932 – on a case of Henoch-Schonlein purpura - was read by a woman, Miss Johnson, prompting a formal note of thanks to be entered in the minutes 'for allowing a woman to read the first paper.' Miss Mary Teresa McQuaid presenting a paper titled ‘Polyserositis in a Young Male Child’ to assembled BioSoc attendees, 20 November 1947 Intellectual

Celebrating LGBT+ History Month: From the College Archive

The historic RCSI Biological Society (BioSoc) is the official student society of RCSI and one of the oldest student medical societies in the world. Trawling through the minutes of BioSoc meetings recently, we were struck by the number of papers delivered on the subject of human sexuality as far back as the early 1940s:  2 May 1940         ' Sex Development Normal & Abnormal', presented by Mr D Early 5 March 1942      'Sex and Life', presented by Mr J Carri 5 May 1943           ' Homosexuality', presented by Mr R Poole Though the papers themselves have not survived, the topics under consideration and the nature of the discussions that ensued among those in attendance were captured to varying degrees in the minutes of these BioSoc meetings.  RCSI Biological Society members, late 1940s-early 1950s The Science of Sexuality BioSoc offered an unusually open forum for discussion of sex and sexuality at a time when it was still regarded as taboo within mainstream a