University of London | Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine

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University of London | Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine

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University of London | Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine


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Imperial College was established in 1907 by Royal Charter, by the merger of Royal School of Mines, the Royal College of Science and the City and Guilds College. All three institutions retained their separate identities after their incorporation. The Great Exhibition of 1851 was an important factor in the development of South Kensington as a centre for Science and the Arts, and consequently the establishment there of Imperial College. The Exhibitions' large profits funded the purchase of some of the land the College now stands on. Prince Albert was a keen supporter of the idea, as were Lyon Playfair and Henry Cole, Secretaries of the Department of Science and Art. The three worked closely to achieve the realisation of the scheme, and the opening of the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1857 and the Natural History Museum in 1881 partly realised their ambitions.

The Royal College of Chemistry was the first constituent college of Imperial College to be established, in 1845. It was the result of a private enterprise to found a college to aid industry, and opened with the first Professor, August von Hofmann, and 26 students. The College was incorporated with the Royal School of Mines in 1853, effectively becoming its department of Chemistry.

The Royal School of Mines was established in 1851, as the Government School of Mines and Science Applied to the Arts. The School developed from the Museum of Economic Geology, a collection of minerals, maps and mining equipment made by Sir Henry De la Beche, and opened in 1841. The Museum also provided some student places for the study of mineralogy and metallurgy. Sir Henry was also the director of the Geological Survey of Great Britain. The Museum of Practical Geology and the Government School of Mines Applied to the Arts opened in a purpose designed building in Jermyn Street in 1851. The officers of the Geological Survey became the lecturers and professors of the School of Mines. The name was changed in 1863 to the Royal School of Mines.

The Royal College of Science was formed in 1881 by merging some courses of the Royal School of Mines with the teaching of other science subjects at South Kensington. It was originally named the Normal School of Science (the title was based on the Ecole Normale in Paris), but in 1890 was renamed the Royal College of Science. Thomas Henry Huxley was Dean from 1881 to 1895, and had been a prominent figure in the establishment of the College in South Kensington.

The City and Guilds College was originally known as the Central Institution of the City and Guilds of London Institute. The Institute has its origins in a meeting of the livery companies in 1877, which led to the foundation of the City and Guilds Institute for the Advancement of Technical Education, to improve the training of craftsmen. One of the Institute's objectives was to create a Central Institution in London. As they were unable to find a site for the Institution, Finsbury Technical College was established in 1878 in Cowper Street. The College closed in 1926. The Central Institution opened in 1884, in a purpose designed building in South Kensington. It became known as the City and Guilds College after its incorporation into Imperial College in 1907.

Lord Haldane was a key figure in the establishment of Imperial College, together with Lord Rosebery and Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Haldane continued Prince Albert's project to use the land owned by the Commissioners of the 1851 Exhibition in South Kensington to develop a centre for science and engineering. A Committee was appointed by the London County Council, and recommended the establishement of Imperial College. The support of generous benefactors, notably Sir Julius Wernher, and Sir Alfred and Otto Beit was instrumental in the development of the new College.

The remodelling of the College site from the 1950s has seen the City and Guilds building demolished in 1962, and the Imperial Institute building in 1963. The Collcutt Tower of the Imperial Institute (now Queen's Tower) was saved and became free-standing in 1968. New buildings were erected and residential student accommodation improved. The College established a residential field station in 1938 at Hurworth near Slough, and in 1947 at Silwood Park near Ascot, which remains today.

St Mary's Hospital Medical School and the National Heart and Lung Institute merged with Imperial College in 1988 and 1995 respectively.The Imperial College School of Medicine was formed in 1997 from the Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School and the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, with the existing schools at the St Mary's and Royal Brompton campuses. As a result of the mergers, the College received a new Charter in 1998.In 2000 Wye College and the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology merged with the College. The Kennedy Institute became a Division of the School of Medicine and Wye College is now known as Imperial College at Wye.

From the guide to the IMPERIAL COLLEGE OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND MEDICINE RECORDS, 1616-[ongoing], (Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine)



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