Celebrating our 180th anniversary

Online news
06 January 2021

 This year we’re celebrating our 180th anniversary.

While the Royal College of Psychiatrists was founded in 1971, the first of our predecessor bodies, the Association of Medical Officers of Asylums and Hospitals for the Insane, was founded in 1841. 

In 1865, the association became the Medico-Psychological Association. 

In 1926, the association received its royal charter, and became the Royal Medico-Psychological Association, before going on to become the RCPsych in 1971.

During our 180 years, numerous prominent people have either led the organisation or been in membership.

Dr Helen Boyle, who had a passion for helping women with mental illness in poverty, was the first female President in our history, being President of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association in 1939.

Professor Sir Martin Roth, son of a synagogue cantor from Budapest, was the first President of the newly-established Royal College of Psychiatrists, in 1971. 

Dame Fiona Caldicott, a pioneering psychiatrist who chaired the Caldicott Committee into the usage of patient information, which iresulted in every NHS Trust having a 'Caldicott Guardian' to safeguard patient confidentiality, and who was appointed as the UK's first National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care, was President of the RCPsych between 1993-1996.

Dr Aggrey Burke, the first UK black psychiatrist, who exposed the colour and gender bar operating at some medical schools in the 1980s, and carried out psychotherapeutic work with bereaved families of the New Cross Fire, in which 13 young black people died, is a current member.

Professor Narendra Wig, who is seen as the ‘father of psychiatry’ in India, and who, among many other things, provided free and dignified mental health services to the poor, was a Fellow of the College.

Logo, events, exhibition

We plan to mark our 180th anniversary throughout the year.

The first thing you may notice is the College’s special anniversary logo, which is on our website, social media channels, the RCPsych Insight magazines this year and a host of other places.

We’re hosting a number of special events too, starting with Petition and Plotting: the early days of the College, a free webinar taking place on Thursday. 

This first webinar is focused on the intrigue which happened at the end of the 1960s and led to the establishment of the organisation as a Royal College. We’ve also developed a web section including a timeline and videos so you can learn more about this vital period in our history.

Our membership magazine, RCPsych Insight, will also feature a special supplement in March, to commemorate this special year.

'Significant milestone'

Our President Dr Adrian James said: ‘During the last few days we launched our strategic plan for the next three years and we’re very focused on making an impact now and in the future.

“At the same time, we believe it is important to celebrate our history too and 180 years really is a significant milestone. 

“There will be lots of opportunities to learn more about our past and commemorate this important anniversary and I hope that as many members and others interested in the College take the opportunity to do so.”