The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is delighted to invite you to join us at the Harveian Oration, which is one of the oldest and most significant events in our calendar.
The Harveian Oration was established in 1656 by William Harvey (1578-1657). Each year, the RCP continues the tradition Harvey began by inviting a leading doctor or scientist to speak on issues relating to his or her field of work.
This year’s speaker is Sir Stephen O’Rahilly, professor of clinical biochemistry and medicine at the University of Cambridge. Details about the subject on which he will be speaking, and the full programme for this year's event, can be downloaded at the bottom of the page.
While only RCP fellows can book for dinner, the Oration is open to all and free to attend with no registration required.
It was Harvey's intention that the annual oration should exhort fellows and members of the RCP 'to search and study out the secret of Nature by way of experiment'.
English physician and RCP fellow William Harvey was the first person to accurately describe how blood is pumped around the body by the heart. A year before his death, Harvey instructed that his patrimonial estate of Burmarsh in Kent, which was then valued at £56 a year, should be given to the RCP.
In an indenture dated 21 June 1656, Harvey's directions for the use of his donation were clear:
Once every year there shall be a general feast kept within the said College for all the Fellows that shall please to come ... and on the day when such feast shall be kept some one person ... shall make an oration.
It was Harvey's intention that the annual oration should exhort fellows and members of the RCP 'to search and study out the secret of Nature by way of experiment'. Harvey urged his colleagues 'to continue mutual love and affection amongst themselves without which neither the dignity of the College can be preserved nor yet particular men receive that benefit'.
Until 1865 the Harveian Oration was given in Latin, as Harvey had instructed, but now English is used. It is held annually in October to coincide with the Feast of St Luke, the patron saint of physicians and surgeons. The orator is appointed by the RCP president and the two eldest censors.