Trinity College Dublin

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The School of Medicine in the University of Dublin, Trinity College Dublin will celebrate its tercentenary in 2011. An apothecary named Thomas Smith who was Lord Mayor of Dublin at the time founded the University of Dublin in 1592, but it was not until 1711, following the construction of the first Anatomy School Building, that the Medical School was officially opened.

The first Statutes of the University and College "laying down the regulations both for degrees in medicine and also for the establishing of a medical fellowship" and which described "the number of anatomical dissections, the number of patient case histories required, and the hours that were to be spent in the laboratories of the Apothecaries", i.e. the first medical curriculum, were written by Sir William Temple (Provost 1609-1627) and further elaborated by William Bedell (Provost 1627-1629). However, there is little evidence that any significant teaching of medicine took place at that time. The first evidence of a formal structure for the practice and teaching of medicine occurred with the appointment of John Stearne as the first Regius Professor of Physic (1662-1669) with the princely stipend of 60 per annum! He not only initiated the teaching of medicine in Trinity, Stearne was also instrumental in founding the College of Physicians, which was to become the Royal College in Ireland. Initially both the activities of the physicians and the medical lectures of the University were given in Trinity Hall. This building, which had been built originally as a bridewell for the incarceration of miscreants and idle persons, was situated just outside the front gates of the Trinity, and was allocated to Stearne who refurbished it using his own resources.

The building of the first Medical School was sited close to where the Berkeley Library is now situated. Sir Patrick Dun who was then the President of the College of Physicians played a large part in processing its construction. It was his bequest that financed the stipends of the medical and surgical professors of both the College and the University, and eventually also the construction of Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital where the primary purpose was to facilitate the teaching of medicine.

It took many decades to bring medical practice out of the dark ages, and to attain the degree of "science based knowledge" that we enjoy and practice today. Trinity and Dublin medicine have played a significant part in this process, specifically in the advancement of the science of Anatomy. This tradition was initially founded by George Cleghorn (1716-1789), and subsequently enhanced by professors such as James McCartney, Daniel Cunningham and Alexander Macalister. Daniel Cunningham wrote a textbook, which became the standard reference for the subject. Others, such as Samuel Clossy (1724-1786) and Robert Smith (1807-1873) were amongst the first to describe the morbid anatomical changes of the diseases, which affect the human body. Smith and William Stokes (1804-1877) were the founders of "The Pathological Society" in Dublin in 1838 whose proceedings did so much to develop the science of clinical practice and at the same time to enhance the reputation of Irish medicine.

Another area in which Trinity made significant progress was in the development of microbiology. John Crawford (1746-1813) initially proposed that infectious disease could be caused by microbes, which were spread by insects. Almroth Wright (1861-1947) was a leader in bacteriology and Immunology. Adrian Stokes (1887-1927) proved the transmission of yellow fever by mosquitoes and William Hayes (b.1913) showed the ability of bacteria to transfer genetic material, demonstrating the mechanism of antibiotic resistance.

In the last ten years major strides have been made in the unravelling of the molecular bases of medicine. The completion of the human genome has supplied us with a molecular alphabet from which we are currently endeavouring to construct a language. It is clear that the molecular basis of disease is relevant in acquired and inherited disorders. The campus at St James's Hospital is unique in Ireland as it houses the Institute of Molecular Medicine (IMM). The Institute of Molecular Medicine is also a member of the Dublin Molecular Medicine Centre (DMMC) which includes the Conway Institute at University College Dublin and research laboratories at the Royal College of Surgeon in Ireland (RCSI).

Last updated 24 March 2009 Web administrator (Email).