EDINBURGH

ROYAL COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS LABORATORY

The first laboratory for medical research in Britain was established in 1887 by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. It was opened in Lauriston Lane, at a capital cost of 1000 and with an annual running cost of 650. It moved to Forrest Road in 1896. It provided a routine reporting service for Fellows of the Royal College as well as supporting an extensive programme of research. Much of its early work was devoted to bacteriology, pharmacology, anatomy, pathology and even zoology. In its early years 40 000 reports were issued and 320 papers were produced. Over the years it became increasingly devoted to routine investigations and during its last decade, from 1940 to 1950, only 73 papers were published but 209 000 reports on specimens were produced. It was partly funded by the Carnegie Trust from 1903 until it closed in 1950 when it was decided that it had no place in the post-war National Health Service. (ref: 1, 52)

Diarmid Noel Paton, who became Regius Professor of Physiology in Glasgow ca. 1905, was superintendent of this laboratory at the turn of the century. He is considered by many to be the first Scottish Biochemist. In 1900, under the patronage of the Town Council, he conducted "A Study of the Diet of the Labouring Classes" in the city. This was to be the first of many surveys conducted by Paton and his colleagues during the next two decades and they demonstrated that the income of a labourer was barely adequate to feed a family of two adults and two children. (ref: 1, 52)

In 1921 William Ogilvy Kermack was appointed as Chemist. In June 1924, when working alone in the laboratory, an experiment blew up in his face leaving him totally and permanently blind. This, however, did not prevent his continuing a distinguished career and he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1944. In 1948, he was appointed to the MacLeod-Smith Chair of Biological Chemistry in the University of Aberdeen. (ref: 1, 52)

W Wallace Park took charge of the laboratory until 1949, prior to taking up his post as Reader in Pathology in Dundee, where he retired as Professor in 1980 and died in 1998. (ref: 147, 151)

In 1950 the routine laboratory was closed, the clinical chemistry component was transferred to the Royal Infirmary and the building in Forrest Road was handed over to the University of Edinburgh. After the laboratories had been refurbished, the M.R.C. Clinical Endocrinology Research Unit, which was established in 1948, moved into the premises. (ref: 1, 2, 52)

Edinburgh University

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