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Royal College of Physicians

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The Royal College of Physicians of London is a British professional body of doctors of general medicine and its subspecialties. It was originally founded as the College of Physicians. It received a royal charter in 1518 from King Henry VIII, affirmed by Act of Parliament in 1523. It is a member of the UK Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

It was the first medical institution in England to become a Royal College, and the first Royal College in the UK and Ireland for physicians; its charter followed that of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh which received its royal charter in 1506. The college has been continuously active in improving the practice of medicine since then, primarily though the accreditation of physicians. A small group of distinguished physicians, led by the scholar and humanist Thomas Linacre, petitioned the King to be incorporated into a College similar to those found in a number of other European countries. The main functions of the College, as set down in the founding Charter, were to grant licenses to those qualified to practice and to punish unqualified practitioners and those engaging in malpractice. This included apothecaries as well as physicians.

The College was based at three sites in the City of London near St Paul's Cathedral, before moving to Pall Mall East (overlooking Trafalgar Square), and finally on to its current location in Regent's Park.

The first Harveian Librarian was Christopher Merret.

Throughout its history the College has issued advice across the whole range of medical and health matters. College publications include the first ten editions of the London Pharmacopoeia (written in Latin, and used for regulating the composition of medicines from 1618 and, through the College's police the Censors, for enforcing the College's monopoly on medical science, then being challenged by the Society of Apothecaries), and the 'Nomenclature of Diseases' in 1869. The latter created the international standard for the classification of diseases which was to last until the World Health Organisation's Manual of the international classification of diseases superseded it in the twentieth century.

The College became the licensing body for medical books in the late seventeenth century, and sought to set new standards in learning through its own system of examinations. The College's great tradition of examining continues to this day and it is still perhaps how the College is best known to the general public.