Society of Medical Officers of Health

  • Society of Medical Officers of Health
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The collection includes: records of the Society's central organisation including council and committee minutes, annual reports and accounts, 1856-1997; lists of members, 1895-1958 and 1990-1997; files relating to early activities, 1866-1908; Society publications including the journal Public Health, 1891-1994; files of comments and evidence provided by the Society, 1950-1997; minutes and files of regional Branches and specialist Groups of the Society, 1875-1997; and records of the Society's Faculty of Community Health, 1988-1998. Also included are some non-Society records such as public health literature, 1902-1991, and files relating to the journal The Medical Officer, 1897-1973.

Section L comprises over 200 files, covering the 1950s to 1990s, relating to comments and evidence produced by the Society, which illustrate the extent of its activities and importance as an advisory body and source of specialist knowledge. Accordingly, it also provides a wealth of information on various public health topics, which supplements that contained in the Society's journal Public Health. The collection includes Vols 3-89 of the journal, covering 1890-1975, and incomplete volumes up to 1994. As well as being a medium for the publication of scientific articles and discussion of contemporary issues, Public Health stands as an important record of the Society's proceedings, role and policies. As a research tool it is equal in importance to much of the primary material in the collection and often fills in gaps in the latter. Records representing some of the Society's early activities in the emerging public health field are listed in Section K.

Records of the Society's Branches, Regions and Groups form a major part of the collection. Branches and Groups were entitled to conduct their business independently of the central body and therefore records were not kept at Society headquarters. Many had to be located and retrieved by the Secretary and the Oxford Unit from former secretaries or members, local health authorities and libraries in the 1970s. A number of records, particularly of Branches, have been permanently placed in local repositories. Although the majority of Branch and Group records are listed or accounted for in Sections N and P and Appendices 1-2, some gaps still remain. Efforts made in 1998-1999 to trace additional material were largely unsuccessful, and it is likely that some papers are held in unknown repositories and privately, or have simply been destroyed. What has survived varies greatly in content, quantity and quality. This can be attributed to the level of activity, efficiency of the Secretary and custodial history. Records mainly comprise minute books and files maintained by the local or group secretary and the Society Secretary. Some minute books include transcripts of papers read, correspondence, menu cards, photographs and other ephemera, giving a broader picture of activities, e.g. Northern and Yorkshire Branches (N.8 & 15) and the School Health Service and Services (Hygiene) Groups (P.9 & 10).

Records of the Society's Faculty of Community Health, including minutes and publications, are listed under Section Q, but they suffer from a number of gaps.

Section R comprises a rich collection of secondary sources which vividly document and illustrate public health measures, policies and issues chiefly in the first half of the 20th century.



Physical description

135 boxes, 25 oversize boxes, 1 o/s volume Uncatalogued: 1 transfer box, 2 archive boxes and 1 object


The collection is divided into sections as follows:

A. Constitution, 1892-1993

B. Council, 1856-1997

C. General Purposes Committee , 1937-1981

D. Standing and Temporary Committees, Working Parties and Joint Meetings, 1892-1996

E. General Meetings, 1856-1997

F. Attendance Books, 1872-1965

G. Financial Records, 1892-1996

H. Members Lists , 1895-1997

J. Publications and Official Publicity, 1856-1997

K. Historical Material, 1866-1908

L. Comments and Evidence, [c.1950]-1997

M. Miscellaneous Files, [c.1879]-1998

N. Branches and Regions, 1875-1983

P. Special Interest Groups, 1920-1997

Q. Faculty of Community Health of The Society of Public Health, 1988-1998

R. Public Health Literature and Sources, 1902-1997

S. The Medical Officer (journal): editorial papers, 1897-1973

T. Miscellaneous non-society items, 1898

Acquisition note

The Society's papers were originally deposited at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford. The first transfer from Society headquarters took place in May 1976 and consisted of Central, Branch and Group records. However, they were very incomplete and further accessions were received over the next few years. Efforts made by the Oxford Unit, including an appeal in Public Health, 1980, Vol 94 pp 382-83, also resulted in a number of new deposits mainly of Branch and Group records. Two handlists incorporating those records deposited up to 1985 were compiled by Margaret Pelling and published by the Oxford Unit (Handlist of Records of the Society of Medical Officers of Health, 1980, and Handlist of Public Health Records, 1985) and can be consulted upon request.

An additional large quantity of records were transferred to the Oxford Unit by the Society Secretary Dr Peter Gardner in September 1986. This mainly comprised headquarters files dating from the 1960s. Box lists were compiled, but the papers were never formally sorted, weeded or catalogued. Several small accessions were received from Dr Gardner between 1986 and 1996 and in 1991 and 1992 some of these were listed as additions to the Handlists and assigned reference numbers, however, they had not been appraised or weeded and these lists were not published.

In 1996 all archive collections held by the Wellcome Oxford Unit were transferred to other repositories. With the Society's agreement, their entire collection was placed at the library at Wellcome Collection in July 1996 (Acc 657). Additional material was deposited by Dr Gardner in September and October 1997, mainly comprising central files and Northern Branch minute books (Acc 722). Numerous small deposits have been received from the Society since 1997. Only one of these was formally accessioned (Acc 754). In October 1999 minute books of the Society's Fluoridation Study Group were acquired (Acc 815).

Files from two boxes, out of 41 deposited in the Oxford Unit in Apr 1988 by Dr J.S. Robertson and transferred to the library at Wellcome Collection in 1996 (Acc 654), have been integrated. They comprise Monthly Circulars (J.4/1-7), minutes and papers of the County District Group (P.2/3) and its Lincolnshire Sub-Group (P.2/7), Yorkshire Branch (N.15/6) and East Midlands Branch (part of N.2/6), and Council agenda and meeting papers (part of B.1/17). Dr Robertson was President of the Society 1979/80 and editor of the Society's journal Public Health, 1977-1988.

Two boxes deposited at the Oxford Unit by G.L.C. Elliston in 1981, which were not incorporated in Pelling's 1985 Handlist but were transferred to the library at Wellcome Collection along with the Society's papers, are listed as Sections K and S.

A small number of miscellaneous deposits received from Dr Gardner and Margaret Grant (last President) in 1998-1999 were not formally accessioned.

A small number of records which were included in the 1980 Handlist have not been found at the Oxford Unit. These comprise 'Framed Portraits and Testimonials' and some non-Society journals; an 'Autograph letter of Florence Nightingale to unknown recipient, accepting offer of assistance, 12 Jun 1857' listed as SMOH/G2; and one large box of photographic mounted transparencies on historical and contemporary subjects, listed as SMOH/G4. Two Bibles dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, numbered SMOH/G3/I&II, were returned to the Society in 1999. Four boxes of material relating to the Association of District Community Physicians, which were transferred from the Oxford Unit with the Society's papers in 1996, are listed separately as SA/DCP. Some non-Society records have been transferred to other repositories (see P.9 and K.37).

Biographical note

Founded in 1856 as The Association of Metropolitan Medical Officers of Health, the Society underwent a number of name changes, notably to The Society of Medical Officers of Health in 1873, Society of Community Medicine in 1973, Society of Public Health in 1989 and finally in 1997 it became The Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene and Society of Public Health following a merger of the two bodies. These changes reflected general developments in the role of the Medical Officer of Health (MOH), organisation of public health services and the public health agenda in the last century and a half.

Shortly after its inception the Society established itself as an important and widely respected professional and scientific organisation. As the responsibilities of local authorities expanded rapidly in the late 19th century, culminating in the Local Government Act 1929, the duties and powers of MOHs increased commensurately. The development of existing and new services strengthened the Society's advisory and co-ordinating role and from the early 20th century it acted as the central representative body of the Public Health Service. Its aims were to promote the advancement of every branch of public health and to increase the education and knowledge of MOHs, the medical profession and the general public in this field. For these purposes its main activities have been to hold meetings, lectures and conferences; organise training courses; publish the journal Public Health; promote research and publication of books, pamphlets and papers on all matters relating to public health; act as an advisory and consultative body to Government and other organisations; and grant prizes for work and study in the field of public health.

The 1970s was a traumatic decade for the Society. Factors such as the establishment of an independent Faculty of Community Medicine by the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the UK in 1972, NHS reorganisation and abolition of the office of MOH, 1973-1974, formation of various new associations representing community medicine and reduction of the Society's representation in the BMA all contributed to its decline in size, activity and stature. In response to some of these changes the Society renamed itself in 1973 and reorganised in Oct 1974. However, the new Regions and Specialist Committees which replaced the old Branches and Groups fell victim to the apathy, distraction and demoralisation prevalent amongst the membership and virtually ceased to function in 1976. The general demise coupled with internal administrative and financial problems almost resulted in the Society being wound up in 1976. However, it continued to function, but with a much reduced organisation.

The Society rallied somewhat in the 1980s with two fairly active Special Interest groups on child and environmental health, the establishment of their own Faculty of Community Health in 1988 and a change of name to The Society of Public Health in 1989, which was accompanied by a profile-raising publicity campaign (see J.7/2-3). However, as the public health agenda widened in the 1990s the Society's central organisation, in its reduced and voluntary form, found it increasingly difficult to adequately represent all aspects of this discipline. In 1997 the Council agreed to a merger with the RIPHH, thus creating a multi-disciplinary and independent body to represent Public Health in Britain.

A summary follows of the administrative history of the Society, plus developments in the role of the MOH, local government and public health provision which run very closely with the history of the Society.

For further historical information consult Public Health Vol 18 'Jubilee Number' Jul 1906 and Vol 69 'Centenary Number' May 1956 & No 12 Sep 1956, and the articles in M.1/11.

1846 Liverpool Sanitary Act: first appointment of a MOH in the country, Dr W H Duncan, who commenced duties 1 Jan 1847

1848 Public Health Act: sets up a General Board of Health for the whole country which could recommend the appointment of Local Boards of Health. Local Boards can appoint MOHs, paid for out of the rates, whose responsibilities were to try to enforce proper drainage, paving and cleansing of streets and installation of privies and sewers. (The General Board of Health had no compulsory powers and did not cover London. It was reconstituted in 1854 and reappointed every year until 1858.)

John Simon appointed first MOH for the City of London

1855 John Simon appointed head of the General Board of Health

Metropolis Local Management Act establishes a Metropolitan Board of Works for London. Requires every Vestry and District Board, the sole sanitary authority of each Metropolitan District, in London to appoint a MOH, leading to appointment in 1856 of 47 MOHs. Provided the impetus for the formation of an association of MOHs in the capital

1856 John Simon, at the General Board of Health, institutes publication of the annual report of the Chief Medical Officer of Health

Apr Meeting called by Dr Pavy, of St Luke's, Middlesex, proposing to form an association for MOHs

May Inaugural meeting of the Metropolitan Association of Medical Officers of Health. Attended by 30 MOHs. The Association's aims resolved to be 'Mutual assistance and the advancement of sanitary science'

May-Oct Four standing committees on Trade Nuisances, Food Adulteration, Aetiology and Meteorology appointed by the Association (all discontinued in 1859)

1857 First Annual Reports of MOHs

Jan MOHs start to receive from the Registrar General weekly returns of deaths

Jul First AGM of the Metropolitan Association of Medical Officers of Health

1858 Local Government Act: General Board of Health abolished, replaced by the Medical Department of the Privy Council, headed by John Simon, and the Local Government Act Office within the Home Office

1859 Extra-Metropolitan Medical Officers allowed to join the Metropolitan Association of Medical Officers of Health

1863 First Annual Report of the Association issued

1866 Cholera epidemic

Sanitary Act: extends powers and duties of sanitary authorities; enlarged the definition of a 'nuisance' and powers of inspection and removal

1868 Artisans Dwellings Act: allows town authorities to compel owners of insanitary property to improvements

1869 Name changed to The Association of Medical Officers of Health, acknowledging the increase in Extra-Metropolitan members

Manchester appoints its first MOH

1871 Report of the Royal Sanitary Commission (appointed 1869). Highly critical of public health provision and variety of authorities involved; recommends consolidation of all public health measures under one sanitary law; contains proposals for a Minister of Health, fixity of tenure for MOHs, systematic reports by MOHs to the Minister, periodical returns of sickness.

Trinity College Dublin first to offer postgraduate training leading to a diploma in state medicine, later known as the Diploma in Public Health

Local Government Act: creates a Local Government Board to supervise 'all local government'. Takes over from the Privy Council the office of Chief Medical Officer, combining central control of public health with administration of the Poor Law

1872 Public Health Act: creates a network of new urban and rural sanitary authorities in England and Wales. In Urban Districts town councils of the municipal boroughs become the sanitary authority; in non-municipal boroughs local boards of health become the sanitary authority. In Rural Districts boards of guardians become the sanitary authority. All have to appoint a MOH

Local Government Board issues instructional minute detailing duties of MOHs

Association of Medical Officers of Health incorporated under the Companies Act 1867 (No 36717)

1873 Title changed to The Society of Medical Officers of Health

Jul Society's General Purposes Committee renamed the Council

1875 Public Health Act: codifies huge amount of sanitary legislation into one statute administered by the Local Government Board. Lays down public health functions and duties of local authorities which last until 1936 and gives them powers to enforce sanitary regulations. Provides for compulsory appointment of a MOH, surveyor and sanitary inspector to every sanitary district in England and Wales. Local Government Board given powers to form Port Sanitary (later Port Health) Authorities, made up of representatives of the local authority and others adjoining. The MOH of the principal district generally becomes the Port Medical Officer. This Act and that of 1872 encourages large increase in MOHs all over the country, many of whom join the Society

Artisans Dwellings Act: Local authorities given power to condemn, clear and redevelop slum areas condemned as insanitary by the MOH

Sale of Food and Drugs Act: permits appointment of public analyst by local authorities, usually as adviser to MOH. Permitted inspections and analysis of samples

Cambridge University establishes Diploma in Public Health. Other Universities quickly follow suit

Feb Foundation of North Western Association of Medical Officers of Health

Apr Foundation of Northern Counties Association of Medical Officers of Health (Dissolved 1882)

Sep Foundation of Yorkshire Association of Medical Officers of Health

Oct Foundation of Birmingham and Midlands Association of Medical Officers of Health

1876 Smallpox epidemic

John Simon resigns as Medical Officer to the Local Government Board

1880 First volume of Transactions of the Society of Medical Officers of Health published, covering 1879-1880

1886 General Medical Council recognises the Diploma in Public Health and its equivalents

1888 Amalgamation of the (metropolitan) Society and the three Provincial Associations, which become the first Branches - Midland, North Western and Yorkshire. Any 12 or more members can form a Branch, subject to Council approval. Branches to appoint own officers and committees, arrange places of meetings, have control of their business and bear their own expenses

Local Government Act: creation of County Councils and County Borough Councils, replacing JPs. County Borough Councils are made sanitary authorities and required to appoint a MOH. County Councils are allowed to but are not made sanitary authorities as these powers are still exercised by district councils. Includes a clause stating that a MOH in a district of 50,000 or more inhabitants must possess the DPH. Establishes the London County Council, which replaces the Metropolitan Board of Works (first elected in 1889)

May First volume of the Society's journal Public Health published

1889 First Annual Provincial Meeting of the Society

Infectious Diseases Act: allows any local authority to require practitioners to notify the MOH of cases of specific infectious diseases

1890 Housing of the Working Classes Act: empowers local authorities to deal with 'unhealthy areas' by improvement schemes and to order demolition of unfit dwellings

1891 Incorporation of the Society under the Companies Act. Name changed to The Incorporated Society of Medical Officers of Health

Foundation of the Society of Medical Officers of Health of Scotland

1891 Society rejects proposal by Sanitary Institute for federation of the two organisations and other societies

Public Health (London) Act

Jul Formation of the Metropolitan Branch. Takes over previous functions of the old Metropolitan Association of Medical Officers of Health

Sep Formation of the Northern Branch. (Revives the old Northern Counties Association of Medical Officers of Health)

1892 Society opposes the Sanitary Institute's application for a Royal Charter of Incorporation

Jul First Articles of Association adopted. Society becomes a limited liability company under the Companies Acts, 1862-1890

1893 Formation of the West of England Branch and South Wales Branch

Special Committee with the Sanitary Institute set up regarding a establishment of a Conjoint Examination Board for Sanitary Inspectors

1894 Local Government Act: Establishes Parish Councils and Urban and Rural District Councils replacing the less democratic urban and rural sanitary authorities. Charged with responsibilities for health services

Aug Formation of the Home Counties Branch

Oct Formation of the Southern Branch

1895 Mar Articles of Association amended

1896 Formation of the Scottish Branch. (Society of Medical Officers of Health of Scotland joins the Society)

1899 Incorporation of the Sanitary Inspectors Examination Board

Infectious Diseases Extension Act: makes notification of infectious diseases compulsory

1900 Formation of the Southern Australian Branch

Welsh section of the West of England and South Wales Branch separates

1901 Society moves headquarters from Holborn Board of Works to 9 Adelphi Terrace

1902 First meeting of the Association of County Medical Officers of Health

Midwives Act: puts professional midwives under the supervision of the MOH. Later they become members of his team

1903 Dissolution of the Southern Australian Branch

1904 Formation of the Eastern Branch (also known as Eastern Counties)

1905 Society moves into its first permanent home, 1 Upper Montague Street, Russell Square, where a library is opened. Remains there until 1939

1906 Society Jubilee celebrations

1907 Education Act: establishment of the School Medical Service, under the Board of Education. Introduces routine medical inspections of school children and encourages appointments of School Medical Officers in each district, answerable to the local education authority

1908 Name changed from the Incorporated Society of Medical Officers of Health to The Society of Medical Officers of Health, by special resolution

1909 New Articles of Association adopted

Appointment of County Medical Officers of Health made compulsory

Old Age Pensions Act

Majority and Minority Reports of the Poor Law Commission (est. 1905). Minority Report recommends abolition of the Poor Law

1911 Association of County Medical Officers of Health formally constituted

National Health Insurance Act

1919 Society adopts new Articles of Association. Constitutional provision made for formation of specialised Groups. Assistant Medical Officers defined for first time, and eligibility for membership extended to MOs engaged in every branch of public health work particularly the expanding field of personal and school health services

Ministry of Health created, superseding the Local Government Board

Apr Formation of the Welsh Branch

1920 Formation of the Tuberculosis Group

Formation of the Naval, Military and Air Force Group

Formation of the County District Medical Officers of Health Group

Formation of the School Medical Service Group

1921 Formation of the Dental Officers' Group (by fusion of the School Dentists' Society, founded 1898, with the Society)

Neech Prize established - awarded for best paper presented by a member at a Society meeting and subsequently published

1922 Order made preventing dismissal of any MOH without approval of the Minister of Health

Formation of the Maternity and Child Welfare Group

Formation of the Fever Hospital Medical Officers Group

1923 Articles of Association revised

Agreement with the BMA which largely precludes the Society from medical-political action but gives Society direct representation, via two members, on the Association's Public Health Committee

1925 Malayan Branch set up

South Indian Branch set up

1925 Public Health Act

Local authorities permitted to undertake educational work and work of health propaganda

1926 New MOH appointees must hold the DPH

Formation of the Central Council for Health Education. This had been actively encouraged by the Society. MOHs welcomed the new body which would co-ordinate health education activities and help local authorities by expert advice

1929 Local Government Act heralds 'Golden Age' of the MOH. Major local health authorities to administer general hospitals as well as growing personal and domiciliary services. Between 1929 and 1946 MOH powers are at their height, responsible with their team for water supply, sewage disposal, food control and hygiene, public health aspects of housing, control and prevention of infectious diseases, maternity and child welfare clinics, midwives and health visitors, TB clinics and VD clinics, school health services and local hospitals; becomes compulsory for the MOH to be full-time; Poor Law abolished, Boards of Guardians disbanded and poor relief taken over by Public Assistance and Public Health Committees the County and County Borough Councils; Urban and Rural District Councils regrouped into fewer and larger ones; County Councils given extra responsibilities including child welfare

1930 Oct Formation of the East Midlands Branch

Naval, Military and Air Force Group lapses

1935 Articles of Association revised to allow co-option of any nine Fellows, three of whom must be Departmental Medical Officers

1936 All MOHs, including those in post, must hold the DPH

Public Health Act: consolidates much of previous Public Health legislation into one Act

Housing Act

Midwives Act: enables local authorities to develop their domiciliary midwifery services

1937 Factory Act

Apr Formation of the County Borough Medical Officers of Health Group

1938 Food and Drugs Act

1939 Society headquarters moves to Tavistock House (BMA headquarters)

1942 Beveridge Report on social insurance and free national health services

1946 National Health Service Act: free medical, hospital, dental and ophthalmic services to be introduced. Transfers power from local to central government. Takes hospitals away from local authorities and MOHs who have continuing duties in the area of personal health services

National Insurance Act: compulsory insurance for unemployment, sickness and maternity benefits, pensions and funeral grants

Association of County Medical Officers of Health also constituted as the County Medical Officers of Health Group of the Society of Medical Officers of Health

Navy, Army and Airforce Hygiene Officers Group revived

1947 Formation of the Scottish Child Health Group

Reconstitution of the School Medical Service Group, renamed the School Health Service Group

1948 National Health Service Act comes into operation

Articles of Association revised. Professors and lecturers in social medicine eligible for membership and public dental officers eligible for Fellowship, representation of Branches and Groups in Council on same footing, position of Chairman of Council regularised as an additional officer of the Society

Eastern Branch renamed the East Anglian Branch

Formation of the Northern Ireland Branch

Formation of the New South Wales Branch

Navy, Army and Airforce Hygiene Officers Group becomes the Services Hygiene Group

Children Act

1952 Board of Trade proposes to sanction a change of title of the Society if formal application is made. Ballot favours change but proposal to change name to The Society of Preventive Medicine is rejected by an Extraordinary Meeting

1954 First woman to hold office of President of the Society, Dr Jean M. Mackintosh

1955 Society publishes The Functions of the Medical Officer of Health

Food and Drugs Act and Food Hygiene Regulations

Dec General Purposes Committee renamed the Executive Committee

1956 Society Centenary celebrations

New Malayan Branch set up

1957 Society considers changing name to The College of Social and Preventive Medicine

Formation of the Mental Health Group

Tuberculosis Group reconstituted as the Tuberculosis and Diseases of the Chest Group

Mar Formation of the Teaching Group

Oct Formation of East African Branch

1958 Society's membership of BMA Public Health Committee increased to 12 instead of two

Report of the Society's Reorganisation Committee

School Health Services Group publishes 'School Medical Inspections' booklet

Newth Prize established - awarded by the School Health Service Group for outstanding work on child health by a community health doctor in the School Health Service, either published or presented as a report to a local authority. In memory of Dr A.A.E. Newth, former Principal School Medical Officer for Nottingham and for many years Honorary Secretary of the School Health Service Group

Feb Formation of the Fluoridation Study Group

Sep Executive Committee title changed back to General Purposes Committee

Dec Formation of the Welfare Group

1959 Board of Trade refuses to approve change of Society's name to The College of Social and Preventive Medicine and suggest changing name to Society of Social and Preventive Medicine. The Board deemed the word 'college' inappropriate under the Companies Act 1948

Mental Health Act: led to many psychiatrists joining the Society

Society appeal to House of Lords against a majority decision of the Court of Appeal which upheld an earlier decision against the Society in the Lands Tribunal regarding exemption from local rates. Lords reject the appeal in Jan 1960

Society issues a Child Health Medical Record Card

Sep Dissolution of New South Wales Branch

1960 Board of Trade refuse to reconsider Society's proposal to change name to The College of Social and Preventive Medicine

Society's Annual Reception introduced to replace the Annual Dinner

1961 First Annual Symposium held

Public Health Act

1962 The Association of County Medical Officers of Health and the County Medical Officers of Health Group of the Society dispense with their common constitution and draw up separate ones

1963 Formation of a Hong Kong Branch

London Government Act: provides for the abolition of the London County Council and establishment of the Greater London Council and Inner London Education Authority. Takes effect in 1965

1964 A Special Sub-Committee set up to consider the structure and organisation of the Society. Reported in 1967 recommending the Society be reconstituted as a College. (Rejected by Board of Trade)

Littlejohn-Gairdner Prize/Medal established - awarded by the Scottish Branch, for an essay, only to 'field' medical officers in the service - MOHs not eligible to apply. Instituted by Mrs Dorothy H. Hedderwick, last surviving member of the family of Sir Henry Duncan Littlejohn, to commemorate the centenary of the appointment of her father as the first MO for the City of Edinburgh in 1862, the first such appointment in Scotland, and of his own friend and colleague Sir William Tennant Gairdner, first MOH of the city of Glasgow 1863

Jun Formation of the Research Group

Sep Society's first six-week course on Developmental Paediatrics

1965 Maddison Research Prize established

1965 Government White Paper The Child, the Family and the Young Offender. Leads to appointment of the Government Committee on Local Authority and Allied Personal Social Services (Seebohm Committee) in December. Society submitted evidence in July 1966

Services (Hygiene) Group lapses

1966 Jan Society Fund Raising Sub-Committee set up

Oct Amalgamation of the Metropolitan and Home Counties Branches to form the London and Home Counties Branch

[c.1966] Maternal and Child Health Group publishes The Doctor and the Child Welfare Centre

1967 Formation of the Audiology Sub-Group of the School Health Service Group

Sheldon Report on Medical Functions and Medical Staffing of Child Welfare Centres. Recommends a Child Health Service emphasising importance of routine medical examination of young children in order to regularly reassess physical, mental and emotional development and enable early detection of specific handicaps. Concluded that administration of the service should continue to be vested in the MOH

1968 Application to Charity Commission for registration as a Charity. Revision of Articles of Association required; revised in March

Government Green Paper The Administrative Structure of the Medical and Related Services in England and Wales. First proposals for reorganisation of the NHS. Society submits comments in December

Report of the Seebohm Committee. Concludes that current family social services are inadequate, underfunded and under resourced, and that branches of the service require better co-ordination and definition. Recommends setting up a single independent department to administer all those parts of the social, medical, educational and housing services which have any social work content

1969 Registered as a Charity under the Charities Act 1960 and therefore becomes a corporation no longer subject to taxation

Proposal to change name to The Society of Community Medicine deferred by Board of Trade because of possible emergence of a Faculty of Community Medicine

Society membership of BMA Public Health Committee reduced to seven from 12

1969 Society holds first Social and Scientific Meeting open to all public health medical officers at which a paper is presented followed by discussions and a social evening

Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government (Maud Report). Proposals for reorganisation of local government with implications for a reorganised National Health Service

1970 Dissolution of the Scottish Child Health Group

Government Second Green Paper on the 'Future Structure of the NHS' in England. Reiterates 1968 proposals to unify the NHS and set up Area Health Authorities and Area Boards (more numerous and less remote than those previously proposed). AHAs to be based on same areas as the new LAs which would continue to provide public health and personal social services only. Includes proposals for close collaboration between the AHA and local government and a corps of administrative medical staff to serve both authorities headed by chief administrative medical officer who would also act as chief 'community physician' and perform much of the current duties of the MOH. The Society submitted comments in May, expressing concern over the reduced responsibilities of MOHs and uncertainty about their future role

Local Authority Social Services Act: based on recommendations of the Seebohm Committee. Unites all social services functions of LAs under a single department headed by a Director of Social Services. LAs to exercise social service functions under guidance of the Secretary of State. Removed control of social services from MOHs and caused further uncertainty about their role and future in the reorganised NHS

1971 Feb First meeting of the Provisional Council of the Faculty of Community Health of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom

May National Health Service Reorganisation Consultative Document published. Proposes four levels of administration; Central Department, Regional Health Authority, Area Health Authority and District. 'Areas' to be coterminous with local government units and responsible for management of integrated health services in its 'Districts'. The Society submitted comments in July

Aug Consultative Paper 'Statutory provisions affecting the internal organisation of Local Authorities in England and Wales'. Contains paragraph stating that LAs will no longer be required to appoint MOHs after 1 Apr 1974 (when simultaneous reorganisation of local government and the NHS takes place). Society submitted comments in November

Oct Working Party on the Future of the Society set up

1972 Local Government Act: includes legislation bringing historic post of the MOH to an end. Comes into effect Apr 1974

Mar Faculty of Community Medicine formally established by the three Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom

Mar Report of the Working Party on the Future of the Society

May Government Report of the Working Party on Medical Administrators (Hunter Working Party). Society submitted comments in July

Aug White Paper on National Health Service Reorganisation: England. Society submitted comments in October

Nov NHS Reorganisation Bill. Society submitted comments in January 1973

1973 Title changed to The Society of Community Medicine. Articles of Association amended in March

Teaching Group lapses

National Health Service Reorganisation Act: NHS unified under Regional and Area Health Authorities. Two-thirds of Areas divided into Districts, rest are single-district Areas. GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists answerable to Family Practitioner Committees. LAs lose responsibility for personal health care to the new District HAs within the NHS. Office of MOH no longer exists and their work done by various posts, such as Area Medical Officer, Regional Medical Officer, District Community Physician. Comes into effect Apr 1974

Britain joins the EEC

1974 Association of Area Medical Officers succeeds the Association of County Medical Officers of Health

John Kershaw Award and Christopher Kershaw Memorial Lecture established

BMA Public Health Committee renamed the Central Committee for Community Medicine; Society entitled to have two representatives

Sep Formal reconstitution of Society: Members no longer known as MOHs; Branches and Groups cease to exist; 17 new 'Regions' congruent to NHS ones set up; 'Specialist Committees of Council' set up to provide expert advice and formulate evidence and comments referred to the Society

Nov Inaugural meetings of the new Environmental Health Committee, Obstetrics, Child and Youth Health Committee and Health Services Management Committee

Dec Inaugural meeting of the new Mental Health, Geriatrics and Welfare Committee

Dec Maternal and Child Health Group publish The Work of the Child Health Doctor in the Community

1975 Feb General Purposes Committee replaced by Committee of Chairmen

Association of District Community Physicians established

Mar Inaugural meeting of the new Dental Committee

May Meeting of the Society's Committee of Chairmen with the Association of District Community Physicians, Association of Area Medical Officers and Regional Medical Officers to discuss links between the various community medicine associations

1976 Proposal by Council to abolish the Society rejected by members (the Extraordinary General Meeting agreed to abolition by one vote but a 75% vote in favour was required by the constitution). Society is considerably reduced in size to enable it to continue and the RIPHH offer to provide it with a registered office (28 Portland Place) and administrative assistance is accepted. The Society retains its own name, identity, funds and property

Most Specialist Committees of Council cease to meet and most of the Regions cease to function

Society's affairs conducted by an Executive Committee

May Large quantity of records of the Society deposited at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford

Oct Standing Conference of Associations within Community Medicine first meeting

Nov Committee of Chairmen replaced by the Executive Committee

Dec Court Committee Report on Child Health Services. Society gave evidence in 1974. Government response Jan 1978. Led to setting up of the Children's Committee

1977 London and Home Counties Branch reformed

1978 Competition to produce a new booklet on the Work of the Child Health Doctor in the Community

Hong Kong Branch becomes independent but retains affiliation to Society

Jan Formation of the Association of Clinical Medical Officers

1979 Oct Formation of the Society's Environmental Health Special Interest Group

1980 Handlist of Records of the Society of Medical Officers of Health by M Pelling, published by Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford

Sep Formation of the Child Health Special Interest Group

1981 Executive Committee abolished and Ordinary Meetings cease due to financial and administrative problems

Oct Executive Committee dissolved. Society's affairs administered solely by the Council and Secretary

1982 Second Reorganisation of the NHS

Association of Area Medical Officers of Health dissolved and merges into the new Association of District Medical Officers

1985 Handlist of Public Health Records by M Pelling, published by the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford

Child Health Group publish a revised booklet The Work of the Child Health Doctor in the Community

1986 Griffiths Report on management of the NHS

Abolition of the Greater London Council

Jan Committee of Enquiry into the future development of the Public Health Function set up

Sep Further Society records transferred to the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford

Oct AGM records a decision to form a Faculty of Community Health within the Society. A Steering Committee is set up in Dec

1988 The Public Health Award established - awarded in recognition of notable achievement to the cause of the health of the public. Recipient does not have to be a doctor or member of the Society

Public Health centenary celebrations

Special Public Health Centenary Awards established

Oct AGM approves change of title to The Society of Public Health

Dec First meeting of the Shadow Board of the Society's Faculty of Community Health

1989 Jan Change of title to The Society of Public Health Limited confirmed by Companies House. Memorandum and Articles of Association amended

Dec Faculty of Community Medicine of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom renamed the Faculty of Public Health Medicine

1990 NHS Community Care Act

1991 Society meetings with the Association of London Boroughs Chief Environmental Health Officers and Association of Metropolitan Chief Environmental Health Officers. Later known as the Environmental Health Liaison Group

Mar First membership entry examination of the Society's Faculty of Community Health

1993 Title changed to the Society of Public Health, by special resolution

1996 Jul Bulk of records held at Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine in Oxford transferred to the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London

1997 Jul AGM approves amalgamation with the RIPHH

Aug Last Council meeting of the Society prior to merger with the RIPHH

Oct 1 Amalgamation of the Society and RIPHH takes effect. Society renamed The Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene and the Society of Public Health

Related material

At Wellcome Collection:

The Association of County Medical Officers of Health of England and Wales first met in Oct 1902 and was formally constituted in 1911. Close connection with the Society existed from 1902 and in 1945 the Association also constituted itself as the County Medical Officers Group of the Society, effective from 1946. The papers of this body are held as SA/CMO. NHS reorganisation in the early 1970s replaced County Medical Officers of Health with Area Medical Officers of Health; records of the body representing these new officials, the Association of Area Medical Officers of Health, are held as SA/AMO.

At other repositories:

Various Branch and Group records are held by other repositories, as detailed below:

Metropolitan Branch 1934-1966: one minute book of the Branch council and meetings, 1924-1930, is held on deposit by London Metropolitan Archives (Acc 2764).

North Western Branch and North West Region (N.7 in this collection), 1894-1981: most of the records of this Branch are held on deposit at The John Rylands University Library, University of Manchester. They comprise:

Minute Books 1875-1894




Accounts 1902-1903


Rolls of Members 1938-1939



Correspondence 1967-1976

Also held, as gifts: Opening address of President Charles E. Paget, 1893; Dinner Menu, 1935; List of Officers.

Scottish Branch and Scottish Region (N.11 in this collection), 1966-1976: most of the surviving records of this Branch are held on deposit by the Greater Glasgow Health Board Archive, University of Glasgow. They comprise:

Branch President's badge of office

Branch minutes, agendas, accounts, membership lists, newsletters and circulars 1956-1976 (7 volumes, 6 files).

Yorkshire Branch and Yorkshire Region (N.15 in this collection) 1903-1980: most of the records of this Branch are held on deposit by the West Yorkshire Archive Service at Leeds District Archives.

Hong Kong Branch 1963-1978: M. Pelling's Handlist of Public Health Records, 1985, states that some records are in the possession of Dr S. McClatchey but efforts to locate them in 1998-1999 were unsuccessful.

Dental Officers Group 1967-1974: most of the records of this Group are held on deposit in the Library of the British Dental Association. They comprise (all minutes are signed):

School Dentists' Society minutes 1898-1907

School Dentists' Society and Dental Officers Group minutes (includes lists of members) 1919-1935

1935-1950 School Dentists' Society and Dental Officers Group minutes (council & general meetings) 1950-1968


Dental Health Committee 1962-1971

School Health Service Group 1943-1989: the papers held at the Wellcome Library originally included some records of the City of Birmingham Education Department and the Medical Officers of Schools Association; these were transferred to Birmingham City Archives and West Yorkshire Archive Service in 1999.

Scottish Child Health Group 1947-1970: records covering 1947-1963 (2 volumes of minutes) are held on deposit by Greater Glasgow Health Board Archive, University of Glasgow.

Teaching Group 1957-1973: the catalogue of the Society's papers published in 1980 states that records are in the personal custody of Dr H. Francis and Dr B. Meredith Davies, but efforts to trace these records in 1998-1999 were unsuccessful.

Various other items were listed in Margaret Pelling, Handlist of Records of the Society of Medical Officers of Health, 1980, but were not transferred to the Wellcome Library. Efforts in 1998-1999 by the Library to locate the framed portraits and testimonials listed in the Handlist proved unsuccessful, although some portraits of presidents can be found in Public Health up to the early 1920s. Similarly, the whereabouts of most of the journals of other societies listed in the Handlist is not known, although Volumes 1-64 of The Medical Officer were given to the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine in Oxford and transferred to the Wellcome Library in 1999.

Copyright note

Copyright in Society records and publications remains with the Society and permission for reproduction in a publication must be sought by researchers themselves. (Contact: The Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene and the Society of Public Health, 28 Portland Place, London, W1N 4DE. E-mail: Web Site:

Terms of use

This collection has been partially catalogued and the catalogued part is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records. Requests to view uncatalogued material are considered on a case by case basis. Please contact for more details.

Finding aids

A typescript catalogue containing a subject index to sections K, L, M and R is available. Catalogues by M. Pelling, published by the Oxford Unit in 1980 and 1985, have been superceded.

Appraisal note

The Handlists produced in 1980 and 1985 have been superseded and the entire collection - everything deposited since 1976 - integrated, re-arranged and re-catalogued, with new reference numbers assigned. However, the basic principle in the 1980 Handlist, of central records followed by those of Branches and Groups, has been maintained, as has the arrangement of Branches and Groups in alphabetical order rather than date of formation. (Further information on arrangement can be found in the Section introductions.) A great amount of weeding and sorting was required of papers deposited from 1986 and of some material in the 1985 Handlist and the unpublished lists compiled 1991-1992. Much material of non-archival value has been destroyed - mainly routine correspondence and papers, duplicates, petty financial records and some ephemeral items. A number of duplicate printed items have been transferred to the Wellcome Library's published holdings.

Location of duplicates

The following photographs are held by Wellcome Images: SA/SMO/L.18, Correspondence with the General Medical Council, 1965, L0041609 SA/SMO/M.2/3, Correspondence and questionnaire about the provision of refresher courses, 1979, L0041608 Sa/SMO/R.4/4, Image from leaflet entitled "Health first in Verse, Prose and Epigram"by T Crew, 1931, L005014647

Accruals note

The following is an interim description of material that has been acquired since this collection was catalogued. This description may change when cataloguing takes place in future:

Two boxes of material were donated in March 2001 (Acc.922) comprising papers of the Faculty of Community Health including newsletters, correspondence, and material about exams, membership, and the continuing medical education scheme, 1980s/1990s and 2000.

One file of additional material was received in May 2005 from Dr Gardiner (Acc.1348) comprising papers relating to the Annual Scottish Conferences 1996-1998, the merger with Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene in 1997 and about the Birmingham Open Air Schools movement. Plus Dr Gardiner's nomination form for the Conservative Medical Society non-officer council member 2005/2006 which contains details of his career to date.

The additional transfer box that was delivered on 8/10/1997: Newsletters from the Society of Public Health (1991-1997) Faculty Board minutes and faculty AGM (1997) Council minutes and AGM minutes (1997) Reports and correspondence titled "Evidence" (1994-1997) Faculty newsletters (1992-1997) Draft copy of "The Genesis of the faculty of community medicine" by Michael D. Warren Official handbooks & members lists from 1990-1991, 1991-1992, 1992-1993, 1993-1994, 1994-1995, 1995-1996 & 1996-1997. This information was added in February 2022 and is uncatalogued.


The following abbreviations are used within the catalogue:

AGM Annual General Meeting

AHA Area Health Authority

BMA British Medical Association

b/w Black and White

CCHE Central Council for Health Education

CMO Clinical Medical Officer

DCP District Community Physician

DES Department of Education and Science

DHSS Department of Health and Social Security

DPH Diploma in Public Health

EC European Community

EEC European Economic Community

EU European Union

GP General Practitioner

HA Health Authority

LHA Local Health Authority

LA Local Authority

LSHTM London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

MAFF Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

MO Medical Officer

MOH Medical Officer of Health

ms. Manuscript

NHS National Health Service

No Number

p/pp Page/s

RIPHH Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene

SMOH Society of Medical Officers of Health

ts. Typescript

Vol Volume

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Accession number

  • 654
  • 657
  • 722
  • 754
  • 815
  • 836
  • 909
  • 922
  • 1348