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Parkinson of the disease

Royal College of Surgeons minutes, 1823

Page from Royal College of Surgeons Court of Assistants minutes book with citation awarding James Parkinson an honorary gold medalPage from Royal College of Surgeons Court of Assistants minutes book with citation awarding James Parkinson an honorary gold medalIn 1823 the Royal College of Surgeons professionally recognised Parkinson with the award of its Honorary Gold Medal. In Parkinson’s case, the citation placed more emphasis on his palaeontological than on his medical researches.

Many clinicians at that time had an interest in natural history and palaeontology: Parkinson’s interest in the subject had been aroused by the expertise of his teacher, John Hunter. The extract of the College minutes on display here shows the citation.

Sir William Blizard, the President of the Royal College of Surgeons, prefaced his encomium of Parkinson with a reminder of the reason for the establishment of the Gold Medal: ‘Every Distinction of Natural Knowledge is necessarily within the Views of the College’, he said, and the criteria for the highest honour were ‘liberal Acts, distinguished Labors, Researches, and Discoveries eminently conducive to the Improvement of Natural Knowledge and the Healing Art.’ Blizard congratulated Parkinson:

Your lively Attention whenever called upon for Information concerning objects of your special Investigation; the well-known Facilities afforded by you to

Naturalists desirous of consulting your Collection … and the General Tenour of your scientific Life; express that Liberality in the Labours of Advancement and

Communication of Natural Knowledge…

As the first recipient of the Gold Medal, Parkinson was joined over the course of the 19th century by only nine others. Among these were the palaeontologist and coiner of the term ‘dinosaur’, Richard Owen, Lord (Joseph) Lister, who discovered the scientific basis for antisepsis; and Sir James Paget (of Paget’s disease).

From the Archives of the Royal College of Surgeons of England​

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