A tour of the medicinal garden

By Dr Henry Oakeley

The medicinal garden contains around 1,100 different species that are used, or have been used, in medicine during the past five millennia, and plants which commemorate physicians. Many of these plants have no medical use but, like the ancient books in the RCP library, record the beliefs and practices of past ages and cultures.

This book takes you on a tour of the garden, with notes on 60 of the plants it contains.


A year in the medicinal garden of the Royal College of Physicians

By Henry Oakeley

The medicinal garden of the Royal College of Physicians contains nearly 1,000 different plants that are used, or have been used, in medicine during the past two millennia, and ones that commemorate physicians.

This journal sets out some of the plants, as they flower, week by week, through the seasons, with a commentary on their uses, past and present, with space for your diary notes through the year.

The RCP garden is not a garden set out to be merely decorative; its fascination lies in its plants, in their uses and their dangers, the history and the folklore surrounding them, and even in their names and the influence they have had on the English language.


Denys Lasdun's Royal College of Physicians

By Barnabas Calder

The Royal College of Physicians in Regent's Park is considered one of the finest 20th century buildings in London, and architect Denys Lasdun's most successful creation.

This beautifully illustrated book describes the building in two parts. The first tells the story of how Lasdun approached the design and building of the RCP. In accepting the commission, he faced two potentially conflicting demands: to create a radical piece of modern architecture that would also serve as a setting for the centuries-old rituals of college life.

The second part is a guide to key areas and rooms of the RCP, illustrating the remarkable details of its fine design. The book explores the extraordinary ceremonial and functional spaces within the building, alongside Lasdun's struggle and eventual triumph in incorporating these with his own distinctive vision through feats of engineering and lavish materials - the result is a gripping tale.


Doctors in the medicinal garden

By Dr Henry Oakeley

Doctors in the Medicinal Garden explores the history, cultivation and uses of 60 plants found in the garden at the Royal College of Physicians, which are named after doctors and apothecaries. These plants tell the fascinating tales of diverse men who dedicated themselves to advancing the cutting edges of science, botany and horticulture. This engaging historical tour of the garden takes in: a Jesuit missionary who ran a pharmacy; doctors of divinity; a failed medical student; a botanist with strong medical links; and two kings with medical interests.

Beautifully illustrated with over 150 images, and written by Dr Henry Oakeley, the Garden fellow at the RCP, this book is an absorbing reference for those interested in science, gardening or history in general, as well as a useful resource for those who enjoy getting their hands dirty!


Dr Richard Formby: founder of the Liverpool Medical School

By T. Cecil Gray

Dr Richard Formby was born in 1790 and grew up in the relative peace of Formby - a village close to Liverpool. His father, the Reverend Richard Formby was Lord of the Manor, a role he combined with that of clergyman responsible for two churches - in Liverpool and Formby - something he managed by virtue of his excellent horsemanship, the two parishes being 13 miles apart!

One of 10 children who were educated by tutors at home, it was at a family conference when Richard's complete lack of vocation was giving cause for concern that someone said, 'If I were you Richard I would become a doctor'. To everyone's astonishment, he agreed and so was entered, in 1804, aged 14, as a pupil at Liverpool infirmary. His formal medical education began at 17 at Caius College Cambridge, where he thoroughly enjoyed himself and did not 'read hard' - but nevertheless managed to impress the university authorities. In the same year he advertised in the Liverpool Mercury;

'Dr Formby will commence a course of LECTURES in ANATOMY and PHYSIOLOGY on Tuesday 17th instant at eight in the morning …….'

And thus was sown the seed of the Liverpool Medical School.

Dr Formby's major role in the founding of the Medical School, his innovations and life as a physician are charted in this sparkling biography set against a background of turbulent social change. In 1852, following a stroke, to his surprise and delight he was invited to give the Harveian Oration at the Royal College of Physicians. He used the occasion to complain about the method of making hospital appointments!


English Delftware apothecary jars and their contents: the Victor Hoffbrand Collection

by Alan Humphries, Henry Oakeley and Victor Hoffbrand

Professor Victor Hoffbrand's collection of English Delftware apothecary jars, displayed at the Royal College of Physicians in London, is the second largest such collection in the world. Built up over 40 years, it contains just under 200 jars, many unique, with examples of all the most frequently used designs. Their dates span from 1640, in the reign of Charles I before the English Civil War, to 1780, George III and the American Declaration of Independence.

For those interested in ceramics or the history of plant-based medicine, this is a source book of unparalleled interest and authority, complete with bibliographies, biographies and glossaries of technical terms and material medica.


Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution

Report of a working party

This report from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health examines the impact of exposure to air pollution across the course of a lifetime.

The report starkly sets out the dangerous impact air pollution is currently having on our nation’s health. Each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution which plays a role in many of the major health challenges of our day. It has been linked to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and changes linked to dementia. The health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution have a high cost to people who suffer from illness and premature death, to our health services and to business. In the UK, these costs add up to more than £20 billion every year.

The report highlights the often overlooked section of our environment - that of indoor space. Factors such as, kitchen products, faulty boilers, open fires, fly sprays and air fresheners, all of which can cause poor air quality in our homes, workspaces and schools.

As a result the report offers a number of major reform proposals setting out what must be done if we are to tackle the problem of air pollution.


Forks in the road: a life in and out of the NHS

An autobiography by Leslie Turnberg

‘It’s not so much which road you take, as how you take it.’ This quotation by Charles de Lint epitomises Forks in the road ‒ an inspiring tale of a boy raised in the backstreets of Salford, who went on to achieve great things. Leslie Turnberg’s sincerity and passion for medicine in general, and the NHS in particular, are evident in the various anecdotes he shares with us from his journey through the corridors of medicine spanning half a century.  

Forks in the road not only presents a calm and collected critique of our national health service, but also lays out simple and practical solutions to some of the challenges faced by the NHS today. Leslie’s introduction to the House of Lords brings an interesting angle to the story, with a bird’s eye view of the power play between politics and medicine. As Professor Ray Tallis observes, this book is ‘a magnificent account of a life well spent at the centre of British medicine, and of its satisfactions and frustrations, of the splendeurs et misères of medical politics’.


George Edwards: the Bedell and his birds

By A Stuart Mason MD FRCP

George Edwards was one of the leading etchers, colourists and commentators on natural history of the eighteenth century. He was also the Bedell (or beadle) of the Royal College of Physicians for 27 years - where his duties included buying the candles - and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Edwards taught himself to etch. He turned his home at the College into a studio, the College itself into a menagerie and, encouraged by Sir Hans Sloane, President of the College and of the Royal Society, and others, set about producing his great works, A Natural History of Birds and Gleanings of Natural History, in which he illustrates and vividly describes birds, animals and insects brought to him from around the world.

The book is illustrated by eighteenth century engravings and includes eight colour plates of Edwards' work as well as extracts from his writing. It is a sparkling piece of history which encompasses many great names of the eighteenth century, gives a fascinating insight into the life of the College and charts the extraordinary achievement of a richly gifted but humble man.