Faculty of Medicine and Surgery
- Library & Museums Subcommittee

Virtual Medical History Museum


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Attempts at introducing formal medical education in the Maltese Islands can be dated to the establishment of the first School of Anatomy and Surgery in Malta by Grandmaster Nicholas Cottoner in 1676 and further strengthened by the foundation of the Collegio Medico by Grandmaster Pinto in 1771. 

On 19 October 1676, Grandmaster Nicolo` Cottoner formalized medical teaching at the Sacra Infermeria by the appointment of Fra Dr. Giuseppe Zammit as lettore in Anatomy and Surgery, while the School of Anatomy and Surgery was founded on the 19 December 1676 at the Grandmaster's expense. Instruction in theoretical anatomy and surgery was given to the barber-surgeons of the Sacra Infermeria and to all other youths who aspired to join the surgical profession provided that they could read and write. Later lectures in the surgical aspects of physiology, pathology, semiotics, hygiene and therapeutics were added to the curriculum. By 1682 the course in surgery lasted ten years. A set of rules governing the teaching of surgery and anatomy were published in 1729 and revised in 1739.

Entry record of Foundation of the School of Anatomy & Surgery dated 19th December 1676

After the expulsion of the Jesuit Order from Malta in 1768, GrandMaster Pinto de Fonceca appropriated all the revenue accruing from its property in the Island with the aim of establishing a Pubblica Universita` di Studi Generali in the Collegium Melitense which had been set up through direct papal intervention in 1592 and which had been run by the Jesuits to teach Philosophy, Theology, Grammar and Humanities. The decree constituting the University was signed by Pinto on the 22 November 1769, having been authorised to do so by the papal brief Sedula Romani Pontific received on the 20 October 1769. On the 25 May 1771, a Collegio Medico was set up as one of the faculties. At the time of foundation of the University, the Principe dell'Accademia dei Medici was Michelangelo Grima who also held the Chair of Anatomy and Surgery. The first statute of the new university was published on the 22 May 1771. The Medical Course lasted for five years, the student obtaining a Bachelorship after two years, a Licentiate after four years and the Doctorate after the final year. The subjects studied included botany, chemistry, anatomy, surgery and medicine. The licence to practice the profession was only given after serving six years at the Infirmary.

With the occupation of the Islands by the French in 1798, formal University teaching was abolished by General Napoleon Bonaparte by degree published 18th June 1798. A few weeks after the French were forced to leave, Sir Alexander Ball re-instituted the University on 6th November 1800 and medical studies were resumed that same year with the first three doctors qualifying in 1804. During the first two decades of the nineteenth century, only a licentiate was granted to successful candidates. The doctorate was introduced in 1822, this being granted a year after the end of studies. The licentiate was abolished in 1838 after the publication of the 1838 Fundamental Statute of the University of Malta which brought the medical faculty into line with medical schools in England. In 1898-99 permission was granted to medical graduates from Malta to sit for the final examination of the Conjoint Board of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons, and for the diploma of the Society of Apothecaries of London. In 1901 the Medical Degree of the Malta University obtained official recognition throughout the British Empire and entitled graduates to be registered in England as Colonial Practitioners. This recognition was suspended after 1977 as a result of a trade-unionistic dispute between the medical profession and the Government. Recognition for temporary registration in the United Kingdom was eventually re-established in 1986.