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History and heritage

The biological, medical and health sciences have a long and proud history at the University and in the city of Manchester.

Our discoveries and pioneering treatments have been - and continue to be - world-leading and make a life-changing difference every day.

We have pioneered new scientific approaches and treatments over the years, with many key advances taking place at the University, playing a key role in the development of both the University and the city over the years.

These include the installation of the world's first commercial EMI CT scanner, important work on gunshot wounds and shell shock during World War I, and the development of pioneering hip replacement surgery.

Our story

Our Faculty's teaching and research activities in various areas date back to the 19th century.

The study of medicine at Manchester can trace its roots back to 1814, when Joseph Jordan opened a school of anatomy in the city.

From 1824, numerous medical schools opened in the city which, in 1836, amalgamated to form the Manchester Royal School of Medicine and Surgery, employing well-known names such as John Dalton, Edward Lund and Richard Hunt. It was also in 1824 that the study of pharmacy began at Manchester Medical School.

The study of life sciences at Manchester goes back to 1851, when Owens College was founded and William Crawford Williamson was appointed as professor of natural history with teaching responsibilities for botany, physiology, geology and zoology. The Departments of Zoology and Botany eventually became part of the new School of Biological Sciences in 1986.

In 1872, the Manchester Royal School of Medicine and Surgery merged with Owens College. In 1880, the merged institutions formed the Victoria University.

Manchester Dental Hospital was established in 1883 to help the poor with dental treatment. Undergraduate dental training began in Manchester two years later, with just three students in the first intake. A dental degree was established in 1904.

In 1898, Catherine Chisholm became one of the first women to be accepted as a medical student at the University, and was the first woman at the medical school to qualify as a doctor six years later.

The first nursing degree in England was established in Manchester by the former School of Nursing Studies. In another first, the first professor of nursing in England was also appointed here.

Victoria University also became the first in Britain to offer an honours degree in pharmacy in 1904.

Philosopher Professor Samuel Alexander kickstarted the study of psychology in Manchester after training in experimental psychology in Germany.

This eventually led to the appointment of the first lecturer in experimental psychology in Manchester in 1909 and the establishment of a dedicated psychology department – a rare phenomenon for Britain and, indeed, anywhere outside of London at the time.

The new University and Faculty

Victoria University went on to become one of the two institutions that formed the new University of Manchester in 2004.

The Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health was later formed in August 2016 through the restructure of the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences and the Faculty of Life Sciences.

Throughout our history, we have made a world-leading contribution to biology, medicine and health, and continue to lead research and offer educational excellence through our close links with the NHS and industry.

Researching and conserving our heritage

We want to keep finding out more about the Faculty's history and conserve our heritage so that future generations can understand the impact we have had on science and society over the years.

The Museum of Medicine and Health holds a significant collection of medical, nursing and pharmaceutical artefacts dating as far back as the 16th century.

We are also home to the UK Centre for the History of Nursing, which focuses on research and education in the history of nursing in collaboration with the Royal College of Nursing Archives and the Royal College of Nursing History of Nursing Society.