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Biography and family history: doctors, physicians, surgeons and apothecaries

Portrait of a male doctor with three female nurses

A doctor with nurses. Studio portrait. Credit: Wellcome Library, London

Researching a doctor, physician, surgeon or apothecary? This guide lists Library resources which may be useful for family history and biographical research. These resources cover medical practitioners from medieval times to the 20th century.

A comprehensive guide listing all the biography and family resources we hold is available in PDF format [353.64 KB].

Medieval

Medical practitioners in medieval England: a biographical register
by C H Talbot and E A Hammond, published 1965
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection BYD.41.AA2
Full details in catalogue

16th century onwards

Lives of the fellows of the Royal College of Physicians of London [Munk’s roll]
Biographical sketches of Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians 1518-1997, in 10 volumes.
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection BYD.41
Full details in catalogue

Medical practitioners in the diocese of London…1529-1725
by J Harvey Bloom and R Rutson James, published 1935
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection BYD.41 /BLO
Full details in catalogue

Directory of medical licences issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury
1536-1775 in Lambeth Palace Library by Melanie Barber
Part 1 Vicar general series licences, 1576-1775, published 1997
Part 2 Faculty office series licences, 1535-1764, published 2000

The directory details those licensed to practice in the province of Canterbury. Until the 1858 Medical Act a medical practitioner in England or Wales only needed a license to practise from the established church. In practice, the system fell into disuse after the mid-18th century.
Shelfmark: Gallery CB.4412.AA5-7

Full details in catalogue (part 1)
Full details in catalogue (part 2)

Gloucester and Hereford Consistory Courts
Extracts from records of the courts relating to physicians and surgeons, compiled by A W J Haggis, are held in the archives (MS. 5350).
Full details in catalogue

Apprenticeship indentures, account books, recipe books, letters, and so forth are held in the archives. Search on the relevant surname in the “Any Text” field of the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue.

17th century

Directory of English Country physicians 1603-1643
by John H Raach, published 1962
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection BYD.41.AA6
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18th century onwards

Eighteenth century medics
by P J and R V Wallis, published 1988. Lists 18th century personnel mentioned in subscriptions, licences, and apprenticeship papers.
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection folios BYD.41.AA7
Full details in catalogue

List of the graduates in medicine in the University of Edinburgh from MDCCV to MDCCCLXVI
List of Edinburgh medical graduates, 1705-1866.
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection BYD.4646
Full details in catalogue

List of Sussex medical apprentices
1710-1752 Manuscript compiled by A W J Haggis is held in the archives (MS. 5353).
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Hunterian Society, London 
Records and manuscripts, 1748-1985, are held in the archives (MSS. 5520-5624).
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Military Hospital Society
London Membership lists, minutes and accounts, 1764-1767, are held in the archives (MS. 5404).
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Medical Society of London
Microfilmed minutes, 1773-1938, are held in the archives (AMS/MF/4).
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The Medical Register, 1779, 1780 & 1783
Unlike the 19th century Medical Register, inclusion in this volume was not compulsory. Only the 1783 edition includes a name index. The three volumes are available in the Library in printed form and online as part of Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO).
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection BYD.41.AJ
Accessible online to all registered Library users
Full details in catalogue

St. Albans Medical Club
London Administrative records, 1789-1990 (MSS. 6216 & 6994-7017).
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Society for the Improvement of Medical and Chirurgical Knowledge
London Proceedings of the Society, 1790-1882 (MS. 5282)
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Lyceum Medicum Londinense Minute books
1792-1805 (MS. MSL.140)
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Sydenham Medical Club, London
Treasurer’s books, membership lists and a photograph album, 1796-1928, are held in the archives (MSS.6208-6215).
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19th century onwards

Askesian Society, London
Minutes of experiments and demonstrations performed at meetings of the Society, 1801- 1808, are held in the archives (MS. 6135).
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A list of persons who have obtained certificates of their fitness ... to practise as apothecaries, from August 1, 1815, to July 31, 1840[- July 31, 1877]
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection BYD.41 /SOC
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Obituaries in The Lancet (1823-present)
Can be found using either the indexes of the printed volumes or online in the e-journal.
Shelfmark: Serials/LAN (print journal)
Available online from Library computers
Full details in catalogue

Society of Noviomagians, London
Proceedings of this convivial club composed of members of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1830-1905 (MSS. 5305-5307)
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Lives of the fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (Plarr’s lives)
Biographical sketches of Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons 1843-2002, in 9 volumes.
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection BYD.41 /LIV
Full details in catalogue

List of the fellows and members of the Royal College of Surgeons of England ... 1845 [1850, 1855, 1859-60]
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection BYD.41 /ROY
Full details in catalogue

The Medical Directory, 1846-present
Lists most practising and retired doctors in Britain and its colonies, although it is not compulsory for a doctor to be in it. Entries provide details of addresses, qualifications, places of training, places of work and any publications.

The format changes over the years. At some stages the volumes list doctors in a straight alphabetical sequence and at others divides them between London and the Provinces, or even subdividing the Provinces with separate sections for Scotland and Ireland. You should carefully check the contents page to ascertain the arrangement used.

Doctors’ deaths are usually deducible only from the year that they disappear from the directory but some include an obituary section.
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection BYD.41
Full details in catalogue

Obituaries in British Medical Journal (1857-present)
Can be found using the indexes of the printed volumes or online.
Manual request from Library stores for use in the Library: Closed stores serials S7455
Available online in the Library and at PubMed Central

The Medical Register, 1859-1989, incomplete
This is compiled by the General Medical Council and records all doctors entitled to practice. Available in the Library in print, and online from Ancestry Live Edition.
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection BYD.41
Accessible online to registered Library users
Full details in catalogue

Medical students' register, 1882-1937, incomplete
Compiled for the General Medical Council.
Manual request from stores for use in the Library: Closed stores serials S120

Society of Apothecaries, London: Licentiates to whom the diploma of the Society in medicine, surgery and midwifery was granted between July 1st 1887 and December 31st, 1906[- 31st December, 1948]
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection BYD.41 /SOC
Full details in catalogue

20th century

The lives of the fellows of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists:1929-1969
by John Peel, published 1976
Shelfmark: Quick Reference Collection BYD.41 /PEE
Full details in catalogue

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