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British Thoracic Society and predecessors

Thoracic Society
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


Records of predecessor bodies of the British Thoracic Society, including minutes, printed material and some administrative records; correspondence and other papers relating to the training and examination of tuberculosis nurses; and a small amount of material relating to the formation and early activities of the British Thoracic Society. Also includes a London County Council post-mortem examination book of unknown provenance, 1932.



Physical description

12 boxes; 1 oversize volume


These papers have been arranged in sections according to creating organisation, as follows:

A. Society of Superintendents of Tuberculosis Institutions

B. Tuberculosis Association [later known as British Tuberculosis Association / British Thoracic and Tuberculosis Association / British Thoracic Association]

C. Joint Tuberculosis Council

D. Thoracic Society

E. British Thoracic Society

F. London County Council: post-mortem examination book

Acquisition note

Donated by the British Thoracic Society, October 2009.

Biographical note

The Society was founded in 1982 by the amalgamation of the British Thoracic Association (founded in 1928 as the Tuberculosis Association) and the Thoracic Society (founded in 1944 as the Association for the Study of Diseases of the Chest), whose histories in turn are marked by a series of mergers and name changes.

The Tuberculosis Association was founded in 1928 at a joint meeting of the Tuberculosis Society and the Society of Superintendents of Tuberculosis Institutions at which the two organisations amalgamated. The former had been founded in 1910 as a means for medical practitioners interested in the disease to meet and discuss matters of common interest, both clinical and administrative / medico-political. The latter had been founded in 1920 by those who felt that the Tuberculosis Society was dominated by those involved in dispensary and public health work and that those working in sanatoriums and training colonies were underepresented. Jane Walker was a founder member and first President of the Society of Superintendents and its meetings took place in her home at 122 Harley Street, London. It took an active interest in a wide range of matters, both clinical and non-clinical, including nurse training and the salaries and conditions of medical officers.

The Tuberculosis Association acted as a discussion forum, holding meetings and conferences on a very wide range of topics. In 1947 it branched out in a new direction when it established a Research Committee and began to co-ordinate projects such as national surveys. In January 1948 it adopted the journal Tubercle, which had been established in 1919, as its organisational journal. A Dominion and Colonies Committee was established in 1949 and in 1953 it became possible for associations in these areas to become affiliated to the Association. In 1954 the Association established its first permanent office and secretariat in Portland Place, London.

In 1944 it changed its name to the British Tuberculosis Association and in 1968 it became the British Thoracic and Tuberculosis Association, changing once again in 1977 to the British Thoracic Association. These latter changes of name reflected the decline of tuberculosis in Britain and the inclusion in the Association of chest specialists with a wider spread of interests.

In February 1966 the Joint Tuberculosis Council amalgamated with the Association and became a standing committee. It had been founded in 1924 as a federal body for a range of organisations. It was originally financed by subscription from each member society, supplemented by contributions from the Medical Research Council and the Ministry of Health. In the early 1960s it had come under financial pressure when the Ministry withdrew financial support, having established its own Tuberculosis Standing Advisory Committee.

The Thoracic Society was founded in 1944 and was known briefly as the Society / Association for the Study of Diseases of the Chest. It was intended as a body to promote scientific exchange on topics relating to all types of intrathoracic disorders. A proposal to enlarge the Association of Thoracic Surgeons to include physicians had been rejected (on the grounds that 'the necessary presentation of operative details would make the meetings of limited value to physicians and that the purely medical aspects of thoracic work were not proper material for a society of that kind') as had a proposal to form a Section in the Royal Society of Medicine for those interested in the clinical aspects of diseases of the chest. Instead it was decided to found an independent society. A. Tudor Edwards took a leading part in its foundation and was the Society's President. The Society brought together respiratory physicians, surgeons, anaesthetists, radiologists and pathologists.

Related material

For A. S. Hall's unpublished history of the British Tuberculosis Association, also held by the Wellcome Library, see PP/HAL.

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