History of RAMI

The Academy of Medicine in Ireland was formed in the year 1882. Prior to this there had been medical societies; each catering for different specialties, Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics and Pathology. There was considerable overlapping in the work of the four medical societies. For many years wide-ranging discussions had been held on how best to bring these bodies together so that they would have the advantage of union yet preserve their independence.

In the end, a solution was found. On 22nd November 1882 in the Royal College of Surgeons an Academy was formed by the amalgamation of the four main medical societies – the Surgical Society of Ireland, the Medical Society of the College of Physicians, the Pathological Society and the Dublin Obstetrical Society. Present at the meeting held on November 22nd the President of the Royal College of Surgeons chaired the meeting, John Thomas Banks had been chosen the first President, William Thomson, Secretary and Robert McDonnell, Treasurer and early in the year of 1883, John William Moore was elected Secretary for Foreign Correspondence, an office which he continued to hold until he was elected President of the Academy in 1918.

At that first general meeting of the Academy in November 1882, over one-hundred members of the founding societies  (Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics and Pathology) were present.  They all became Fellows of the new Academy.

Instead of a loose federation, the founding fathers, with great imagination, created a completely new and dignified body – an academic version of the Royal Colleges. The Academy was to consist of a President and Council, Fellows, Members, Student Associates and the founding Societies became Sections of the Academy.

The Academy of Medicine in Ireland would consist of Sections. The first four Sections were Medicine with William Moore, President of the College of Physicians as President. The Surgery Section with John Kellock Barton, President of the College of Surgeons as President. The Obstetrics Section with John Denham as President and the Pathology Section, with Professor John Malet Purser as President. Then in December two sub-sections were formed, the Section of Public Health, or State Medicine, as it was called then, with Charles Cameron as President and the Section of Anatomy and Physiology, with Professor Alexander MacAlister as President. In 1930 a new Section of Laryngology and Otology was formed, with Sir Robert Woods being elected as their first President.

The Presidency was seen as an office of great honour, almost on a level with those of the Royal Colleges. It is still regarded as one of the great offices in Irish medicine and its Presidents, all of them leaders of the profession and all lending their time and talents to furthering the interests of the Academy. The President’s term was formerly three years; it is now two years and there is no provision for a second term.

The General Secretary is the Chief Executive of the Academy and the term of office is five years with eligibility for re-election.

The General Council consists of six elected Fellows, the Officers and a representative of each Section. In latter years, with the increase in the number of Sections, the Council became too large for everyday work and an Executive Committee consisting of the Officers and six elected Members was formed. This Committee meets frequently while the Council meets three times in the Academic year.

In this way the Governing body was formed and the founding societies became Sections. Each Section has its own President and Council and operates its own programme in its own way under the guidance of the General Council.

Thus the main work of the Academy – the reading of papers, the demonstration of clinical signs, the exhibition of specimens, the exchange of information – is conducted at Section meetings. Soon after the foundation of the Academy, two extra Sections were formed – the Section of Public Health and the Section of Anatomy and Physiology. The Victorian founders laid down in precise detail how meetings should be conducted – no presentation to exceed twenty minutes, no pathological specimen to be exhibited at any Section other than the pathological and so on. These conditions have, of course, been modified with time, but the tradition remains dignified yet informal with meetings free of medical politics or personal animosities.

The Academy has been slow to elect Honorary Fellows. In the early days the list included Louis Pasteur, von Recklinghausen and Robert Koch. Here are some of the Honorary Fellows of the Academy:

  • 1988: Janssen, Paul Adriaan, M.D., M.D.(Hon.), Lund, M.D.(Hon.), Louvain, M.D.(Hon.), Szeged, D.Sc.(Hon.), Dublin
  • 1982: Doll, Sir Richard O.B.E., M.D., D.Sc., F.R.C.P., F.R.S.
  • 1982: Froggatt, Professor Peter, M.D., D.P.H.
  • 1982: Kinnear, Professor Nigel, M.B., F.R.C.S.I.
  • 1982: Watt, sir James, K.B.E., M.S., M.D., F.R.C.S., F.R.C.P.
  • 1979: Hillery, His Excellency Dr. Patrick, Past President of Ireland
  • 1976: O’Donovan, Denis K., M.D., Ph.D., F.R.C.P., F.R.C.P.I.(Hon.)
  • 1976: Wolstenholme, Sir Gordon, O.B.E., LL.D., F.R.C.P.
  • 1969: Higginson, John, M.D., F.R.C.P.

Over the years, through two world wars and a civil war the Academy continued to prosper. For 43 years the original six Sections continued to form the Academy, then came a rush of Sections and now we have over 20 Sections all diligently pursuing their separate aims. With its increased number of Sections and vastly increased Fellowship and Membership lists, the present-day Academy is a very active, vibrant body, filling an essential and fully accepted place in the medical hierarchy of Ireland. The Academy holds Presidential Meetings, Prize lectures, regular Section meetings and Registrars’ Competitions.

Presidential Meetings are general meetings at which the President presides. They are called to discuss a medical question of general interest.  The Presidential Lecture has been re-instated in 2015.

On June 9th 1887, Her Majesty Queen Victoria granted permission to the Academy to add the word “Royal” to its name and at a special meeting held on October 28th 1887, the name changed accordingly to “The Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland”, also now affectionately known as RAMI. This disconcerted some members of Council who wondered whether the Queen could “command” a change in the rules. To be on the safe side the Council passed a motion adding the word “Royal” and so the honour was satisfied.

Centenary Year 1982

The Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland celebrated its Centenary on the 26th November 1982 in the Royal College of Physicians with a scientific historical symposium.  Beginning at 11:00am representatives of the four Sections which comprised the original Academy, presented papers on the development of their Section and advances in medicine over the century. Professor J.B. Lyons spoke for the Medical Section, Professor Kinnear for the Surgical Section, Professor Alan Browne for the Obstetrical Section and Professor P.D. Holland for the Pathological Section.

The President of the Royal Academy Dr. Robert Towers presented Honorary Fellowships of the Academy to two distinguished visitors – Sir Richard Doll and Sir James Watt. Sir Richard has an international reputation in preventive medicine and Sir James is the President of the Royal Society of Medicine.

In addition to these visitors Honorary Fellowships were presented to Professor Nigel Kinnear and Dr. David Mitchell, both past Presidents of the Academy and to Professor Peter Froggatt, Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast.

Following these presentations and an award of medals, Sir Richard Doll delivered an address on “Back to Methuselah or the Opportunities for Preventive Medicine”.  In the College of Surgeons that evening a centenary banquet was held at which His Excellency the President of Ireland and Mrs. Hillery were guests of honour.  The Academy was founded at a meeting in the College of Surgeons on the 18th November 1882 when 100 members of four medical societies  – the Medical Society of the College of Physicians, the Surgical Society of Ireland, the Pathological Society and the Dublin Obstetrical Society – came together and elected a President and Council and Presidents of the first four Sections of the Academy which were in a sense a continuation of the four founding societies.

But the founders saw more than a loose federation of medical societies. They envisaged an academic version of the Royal Colleges with a President and Council, Fellows and Members and a provision for Honorary Fellows.  The Academy is now at the centre of Irish medical life.