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The Royal Society of Medicine

Urology Section formed in 1920

At the turn of the C19th there were many medical societies in London and for many years moves were made to amalgamate some, for practical and financial reasons. Finally, in 1907, the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) was formed from the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London, the Pathological Society of London, the Epidemiological Society, the Odontological Society of Great Britain, the Obstetrical Society of London, the Clinical Society of London, the Dermatological Society of London, the British Gynaecological Society, the Neurological Society of the United Kingdom, the British Laryngological, Rhinological and Otological Association, the Laryngological Society of London, the Dermatological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, the British Electro-Therapeutic Society, the Therapeutic Society and the Otological Society of Great Britain; they were re-formed into 13 Sections within the new RSM. The Medical Society of London was not one of the 15; they had refused due to rumours of financial instability. This was a shame as it was hoped to join their two substantial libraries as well as their two London properties.

The Urology Section of the RSM

In 1913 Hurry Fenwick (left), a surgeon at the London Hospital with an interest in urology, attempted to form a urology section within the RSM. It was suggested urology form a sub-section of the surgical section along with orthopaedics and proctology but an initial lack of momentum and the intervention of the First World War put a halt to that.

After the Great War Walter Spence, president elect of the RSM surgical section, looked once again at urology. A sub-committee was formed in 1919 and in 1920 urology was given the status of a full section of the RSM. The first meeting was on 17th March and the first president was Sir Peter Freyer (below left). In his presidential address he mapped out the vast advances in urology over the previous 45 years. He also made it quite clear that he was a little surprised that not only had urology been recognised as a speciality but that it had been granted significant status with a full section marking a “healthy advance of the surgical world in England [at urology being a distinct speciality]”. Pushing the point a little he noted that this was already the case in “every other country”. Freyer felt the section would create a “healthy and friendly rivalry” between urologists allowing them to co-ordinating their work leading to a “favourable influence in continuing the progress of [urology in] recent years”.

Freyer was right; the RSM urology section became the focus of British urological practice. As well as the annual president’s address there was a meeting of short papers on the medical and surgical aspects of urological disease, a clinico-pathological meeting and one meeting a year to be held outside of London.

The early presidents of the section included physicians (Sir Thomas Horder in 1921 and Sir Walter Langdon-Brown in 1923) with an interest in urological conditions and pathologists (Cuthbert Dukes in 1956 and Roger Pugh in 1976) as well as urologists. Presidents came from hospitals outside London including Scotland (Sir Henry Wade in 1937) and Wales (T.E. Hammond in 1940). It was perhaps for this reason that no national British urology society was formed until 1945, as although heavily London influenced, the RSM urology section fulfilled that purpose very well.

The Urology Section of the RSM continues to provide high quality education for urologists today and works closely with BAUS to do so.

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