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King's College Hospital

Engraving of four storey L-shaped hospital building with garden behind iron railings, pedestrians in foregroundFirst King's College Hospital 1839 One of King's most enduring and conspicuous contributions to the welfare of Londoners has been its hospital. This opened in a converted workhouse in nearby Portugal Street in 1839.

A testament to its success was the number of patients treated that rose from around 5,000 in 1840 to more than 30,000 in 1850 and were mostly drawn from the poverty stricken and overcrowded parishes in its vicinity.

Its growing reputation for clinical excellence, however, led to patients being referred from all over the country and in one instance, even from as far as Australia.

The Hospital quickly outgrew its premises. The problem of overcrowding was made more pressing still by the presence of 'noxious gases' issuing from rotting corpses located in an adjacent burial ground, and consequently, a subscription campaign was launched that led to the opening of new premises in the same area in 1861. It moved to its present site in Denmark Hill in 1913.

King's was a world leader in bacteriology and public health under Joseph Lister, Professor of Surgery from 1877 and the 'father of antiseptic surgery'. Lister found new ways to destroy the microscopic organisms he realised were implicated in cases of infection and in so doing transformed the survival chances of surgical patients.

The College opened the country's first bacteriology laboratory in 1887. This quickly acquired an international reputation and received students from across the world. A pioneer in the teaching of hygiene, the first classes had been established in the 1860s, eventually becoming one of the country's foremost public health departments used to train medical and sanitary inspectors.

Perhaps no other aspect of the work of King's could be said to have had more impact upon the lives of ordinary Londoners.

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