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Galen Medal

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2130 E/8/7
Held at: Society of Apothecaries
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Full title: Galen Medal
Date(s): 1925 to date
Level of description: Series
Extent: Approx. 2 boxes
Name of creator(s): The Court of Assistants of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London x The Medal Committee


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Galen or Gold Medal, known as The Society of Apothecaries' Medal, was instituted in 1925 for valuable services or contributions rendered to the science of therapeutics. The 'Therapeutic Revolution' which led to the development of the modern pharmaceutical industry is usually dated to the period 1935-1945, when commercial production of the first sulphonamides and the first antibiotic, penicillin, became possible. The Society's Medal is awarded on a broad basis, therapeutics being understood to encompass the whole spectrum of the art of healing, from preventative medicine to surgical intervention.

The design of the Galen Medal was based on two medals awarded by the Society during the 19th century; the 'Linnaeus' for Botany and the 'Galen' for Materia Medica and Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Both were engraved by William Wyon RA, Chief Engraver to the Royal Mint, 1828-1851. The Society commissioned Wyon to design a medal based on the bust of Galen at the Royal College of Physicians of London. The original dyes used in casting the Medal eventually became unusable. Cast in silver gilt since the Second World War and re-designed by craftsmen at the Royal Mint, the medal incorporates many of the original features from Wyon's design. On the obverse, a bust of Galen looking left with the word Galen to its left, by T H Paget after Wyon, on the reverse a seated female figure, representing Science, instructing a seated youth in the properties of plants, with a vase containing herbs and flowers to the right and an apothecary's furnace to the left and, in the exergue, the emblems of Aesculapius, after Wyon (and more recently the Society's Coat of Arms and 'W Wyon RA').

According to the Regulations of June 1925, the Court was to make the award annually following the recommendation of the Medal Committee. The Committee was to consider original investigations into the Science of Therapeutics published during the preceding three years. The award was not to be 'restricted by any question of age, nationality or sex' and was to be presented at a Livery Dinner. Later, the presentation of the award took place at the Society's July Soirée but in recent years an eponymous dinner has marked the occasion. Professor Walter Ernest Dixon was the first recipient in 1926 for his advances in pharmacology. The roll of distinguished medallists includes Alexander Fleming for his discovery of, and Howard Florey and Ernst Chain for their work on, penicillin.


Scope and content/abstract:

Society of Apothecaries of London: Galen Medal collection, 1925 to date, comprises papers relating to the Galen Medal awarded by the Society of Apothecaries. The papers include those concerning the history of the award, correspondence with the Royal Mint, reports of the Medal Committee, correspondence regarding nominations, correspondence with recipients who include Walter Ernest Dixon, Alexander Fleming, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, autograph book of recipients, 1985 to date, and records of presentation dinners, 1990s.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The papers were originally organised in bundles of loose material. They are to be re-arranged by the Archivist.

Conditions governing access:

Open, but access those of the past 10 years are at the discretion of the Archivist.

Conditions governing reproduction:

At the discretion of the Archivist.

Finding aids:

Temporary and incomplete list available in the Archives. Please contact the Archivist for more information.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Internal acquisition.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Records within temporary reference E/8/1/2 Prizemen: Botany, and Materia Medica and Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: administrative history and exhibition leaflet, 1998, written by the Archivist.
Compiled by Dee Cook, the Archivist.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
May 2008

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