The Medico-Psychological Association (MPA) (1865–1926)

The history of the Royal College of Psychiatrists
Dr Henry Maudsley
Dr Henry Maudsley (1835-1918) – President of the Medico-Psychological Association in 1871

In 1865 the Association changed its name to the Medico-Psychological Association but retained the original objectives. This change in title reflected a growing confidence of its members, and a recognition that the Association needed to be strengthened and its influence extended outside the confines of asylums.

The Association continued to hold annual general meetings where the business matters were discussed. In 1868 it was agreed that in addition to the annual meetings, there should be quarterly meetings for the purpose of scientific discussion.

For many years, the affairs of the Association were administered from different asylums depending upon where the chairman, and later the president, were resident. Then, in 1893, the Association occupied rooms at 11 Chandos Street, London W1, the headquarters of the Medical Society of London. The Association’s headquarters remained here for eighty years.

As the membership of the Association grew, 1894 witnessed the election Dr Eleanora Fleury of Richmond Asylum in Dublin, Ireland, the first female member of the Association. Her election paved the way for other women, and by 1900 the Association had a total of 14 women as members.

Logo of the Medico-Psychological Association
Logo of the Medico-Psychological Association

In order to establish its own professional standards, the Association established the Certificate of Efficiency in Psychological Medicine examination for its members in 1885. Another milestone was reached in 1890 when the Association established the Certificate of Proficiency in Nursing to improve the training of mental nurses. The MPA’s Handbook for the Instruction of Attendants on the Insane, was first published in 1885, and was revised regularly, reaching its fifth edition by 1908. By that year, a full three-year curriculum had also been developed.

Following the passing of the Mental Deficiency Act 1913 a separate certificate in mental deficiency nursing was created, but it was only introduced after the First World War, in 1919.

Much of the Association’s work during the early part of the twentieth century was done through committees such as the Parliamentary Committee, the Rules Committee, the Statistical Committee, the Educational Committee, the Library Committee and the Tuberculosis Committee.

  • 1866 – The MPA receives a donation of the bust of Dr John Conolly, a longstanding member of the Association, a pioneer of the speciality, and one of the advocates of non-restraint method.
  • 1872 – The Irish Division holds its first meeting.
  • 1881 – Dr Daniel Hack Tuke became president of the Association. He was one of the founders of the Library (now the antiquarian book collection Library). Editor of the Dictionary of Psychological Medicine.
  • 1882 The MPA Bronze Medal and Prize is instituted and is awarded for the best dissertation on a clinical or pathological subject related to mental disorder.
  • 1885 – The Association publishes the Handbook for the Instruction of Attendants on the Insane.
  • 1885 – The Certificate in Psychological Medicine is established.
  • 1886 – The Gaskell Gold Medal prize is established from Samuel Gaskell's legacy.
  • 1891 – The examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in Nursing is established.
  • 1894 – The Association moves into 11 Chandos House which was owned by the Royal Society of Medicine.
  • 1894 – Dr Eleanora Fleury of Richmond Asylum Dublin is elected first female member of the Association.
  • 1895 – Jane Waterston is the second female to be elected as a member of the Association. She had acquired her Certificate of Proficiency in Psychological Medicine in 1888. Jane Waterston was a Scottish missionary based in South Africa.
  • 1909 – Asylum Officers Superannuation Act is passed as a result of persistent lobbying by the Association.
  • 1914 – The Research Committee is established.
  • 1926 – The MPA is granted the Royal Charter and becomes the Royal Medico-Psychological Association.
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