At the time when King's College was founded in 1829, medical education was obtained at  private anatomy schools and hospitals, but not in London medical schools.  Charing Cross Hospital and Medical School was just getting underway.  In 1831, King's College London established a medical department although students had to receive their practical instruction and ward work at neighboring hospitals.  By 1839, the College decided to build on the medical expertise of the faculty by adding a hospital.  The intent was to provide medical education in an Anglican setting, different from the non-religious University College and similar to Oxford and Cambridge universitites.

The first facility was a rented former workhouse on Portugal Avenue.  King's College bought the workhouse, did extensive renovations, and converted it to a hospital (see first King's College Hospital below).  The first patient was admitted in 1840, or six years after the opening of Charing Cross Hospital and Medical School.  Dr. Robert Bentley Todd (1809-1860) was the first Dean and did much to get the medical school established (see picture).  In 1846 the medical curriculum was expanded from three years to a full four years.  During the same time, King's College purchased land adjoining the original building.  Rooms over the hospital gateway were converted into two small wards for cholera cases, which in 1849 admitted 123 cases (83 recovered).  A wing was added to the hospital in 1852.  By 1857 plans were underway to demolish the former workhouse and build a state-of-the art hospital at the same site.  The new 200 bed hospital constructed in 1858-60 (see rebuilt King's College Hospital below). 

Among the most famous person associated with King's College Hospital was Dr. Joseph Lister (1827-1912, see picture). After obtaining his medical education at University College, London, Lister in 1852 became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.  He moved to Scotland and became Chair of Surgery in Glasgow and then in 1869 was appointed the Edinburgh Chair.  While in Scotland he faced the horrors of septic complications of surgery.  Like John Snow, he rejected the miasma theory, believing instead that the problem was caused by germs.  Lister developed the use of diluted carbolic acid to promote aseptic surgery about the same time that John Snow perfected his methods of anesthesia and conducted his studies of cholera.  King's College Hospital beckoned Lister in 1877, where he remained until retirement in 1893. During his King's College years, Lister finally received worldwide acclaim for his development of aseptic surgery.  

The black outline of the original hospital is seen in the 1859 map, just below "ortu" in Portugal Street.  By 1873 when the Old Ordnance Survey Map was published, the hospital had been rebuilt and enlarged, but remained in the same general location.


(Quarter Mile Section - K 17)


Hunter W. Historical Account of Charing Cross Hospital and Medical School, 1914.

Jenkins D, Stanway AT. The Story of King's College Hospital, 1968.

Lyle HW. King's and Some King's Men, 1935. 

Weinreb B, Hibbert C (eds). The London Encyclopaedia, 1993.


The First King's College Hospital in 1839-60

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Map of 1839-60

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The Rebuilt King's College Hospital in 1860

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The Rebuilt King's College Hospital in 1861

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Old Ordnance Survey Map of 1873

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