Harveian Oration and dinner 2017

When and where

18 October 2017
Royal College of Physicians of London
11 St Andrews Place, Regents Park, London NW1 4LE

Past event

Harveian Oration and dinner 2017

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) invites you to the Harveian Oration, 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 by inviting a leading doctor or scientist to speak on issues relating to their field of work.

The speaker

This year’s speaker is Professor Christopher Whitty, professor of public and international health at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Professor Whitty was appointed chief scientific adviser for the Department of Health in January 2016. He will be discussing the triumphs and challenges in a world shaped by medicine. 

Please note that while only RCP fellows can book for dinner, the Oration is open to all and free to attend with no registration required.

Oration synopsis 176.06 KB

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'

History of the Oration

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'.

William Harvey (1578–1657). Oil on canvas by unknown artist, c.1650.

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.