History of the College of Physicians and Surgeons


Columbia University began as King's College, which was founded in 1754 by a royal grant from George II of England "for the instruction of youth in the Learned Languages, and the Liberal Arts and Sciences." The American Revolution interrupted its program, but in 1784 it was reopened as Columbia College. In 1912 the title was changed to Columbia University in the City of New York.

King's College organized a medical faculty in 1767 and was the first institution in the North American Colonies to confer the degree of Doctor of Medicine. The first graduates in medicine from the College were Robert Tucker and Samuel Kissarn, who received the degree of Bachelor of Medicine in May 1769 and that of Doctor of Medicine in May 1770 and May 1771, respectively. Instruction in medicine continued until interrupted by the revolution and the occupation of New York by the British, which lasted until November 25, 1783. In 1784, instruction was resumed in the academic departments, and in December of the same year the College reestablished its medical faculty.

In 1814 the medical faculty of Columbia College was merged with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which had obtained an independent charter in 1807. In 1860, by agreement between the Trustees of the two institutions, the College of Physicians and Surgeons became the Medical Department of Columbia College. From that time forward, the diplomas of the graduates were signed by both the President of Columbia College and the President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. However, the connection was only nominal until 1891 when the college was incorporated as an integral part of the university.

In 1911, Columbia University entered into a Formal Agreement of Alliance with Presbyterian Hospital, a hospital founded in 1868 by James Lenox, a New York philanthropist. It was this alliance that helped to pave the way for the creation of a new medical center format. In 1928, the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center opened its doors. Set on land in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center was the first place in the world to provide facilities for patient care, medical education, and research all under one roof. Included in this project with Presbyterian Hospital were the Babies Hospital, the Neurologic Institute of New York, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute; these were then joined in 1950 by the New York Orthopaedic Hospital.

In 1997, the Presbyterian Hospital merged with New York Hospital (a partner of Weill Cornell Medical College) to form the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. This new hospital system has also incorporated many of the satellite hospitals and affiliated programs of these two institutions. While the two Ivy League medical schools remain independent, there has been significant cross fertilization between the campuses leading to increasing numbers of shared research experiences and training programs.