Oldest Medical School in the world

Last Updated on August 29, 2022 by Smile Ese

The faculty of medicine was an early and active school of medicine. The university also became known for its expertise in other sciences, especially mathematics, physics, and botany.

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1st medical school in the world

University of Montpellier

The University of Montpellier (French: Université de Montpellier) is a public research university located in Montpellier, in south-east of France. Established in 1220, the University of Montpellier is one of the oldest universities in the world.

The university was split into three universities (the University of Montpellier 1, the University of Montpellier 2 and the Paul Valéry University Montpellier 3) for 45 years from 1970 until 2015 when it was subsequently reunified by the merger of the two former, with the latter, now named Paul Valéry University, Montpellier III remaining a separate entity. More on 30 OF THE OLDEST MEDICAL SCHOOLS IN THE WORLD , University of Montpellier and 1. UNIVERSITY OF BOLOGNA – SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AND SURGERY

Université de Montpellier
Seal of the University of Montpellier
Latin: Universitas Montempestellarium
Established1220; 801 years ago
PresidentPhilippe Augé
Academic staff1,900
Doctoral students1,700
LocationMontpellier, France
CampusUrban/College town
AffiliationsCoimbra Group


The Quia Sapientia bull in 1289 Pope Nicolas IV University of Montpellier, Faculty of Medicine, the world’s oldest medical school still in operation.

The university is considerably older than its formal founding date, associated with a papal bill issued by Pope Nicholas IV in 1289, combining all the centuries-old schools into a university., but the first statutes were given by Conrad of Urach in 1220.

It is not known exactly when the schools of liberal arts were founded that developed into the Montpellier faculty of arts; it may be that they were a direct continuation of the Gallo-Roman schools that gathered around masters of rhetoric. The school of law was founded by Placentinus, from the school of law at Bologna, who came to Montpellier in 1160, taught there during two different periods, and died there in 1192. The faculty of law has had a long career. Professors from Montpellier were prominent in the drafting of the Napoleonic Code, the civil code by which France is still guided and a foundation for modern law codes wherever Napoleonic influence extended. The faculty of law was reorganized in 1998.

The prestigious school of medicine was founded perhaps by people trained in the Muslim Spanish medical schools as Muslim rule from the Spain did not end until 1492; it is certain that, as early as 1137, there were excellent physicians at Montpellier University. It is the world’s oldest medical school still in operation, however, the University of Azhar, Egypt used to award medical degrees as early as 700 AD. The school of medicine owed its success to a policy of the Guilhem lords of Montpellier, by which any licensed physician might lecture there: with no fixed limit to the number of teachers, lectures multiplied, thus providing a great choice of teachers coming from all around the Mediterranean region (Guilhem VIII act of January 1181). The statutes given in 1220 by Cardinal Conrad von Urach, legate of Pope Honorius III, which were confirmed and extended in 1240, placed this school under the direction of the Bishop of Maguelonne, but the school enjoyed a great deal of de facto autonomy.

The school was famous for arguing in the fourteenth century that the Black Death was caused by a miasma entering the opening of the body’s pores, citing theories developed by Galen. Doctors educated at Montpellier advocated against bathing because they claimed bathing opened the body’s pores, making one more susceptible to the bubonic plague.

In 1529, after some years as an apothecary, Nostradamus entered the University of Montpellier to study for a doctorate in medicine. He was expelled shortly afterwards when it was discovered that he had been an apothecary, a “manual trade” expressly banned by the university statutes. The expulsion document (BIU Montpellier, Register S 2 folio 87) still exists in the faculty library. Rabelais took his medical degree at Montpellier, and his portrait hangs among the gallery of professors.

The Jardin des plantes de Montpellier, founded in 1593, is the oldest botanical garden in France. It was in this school that the biological theory of vitalism, elaborated by Barthez (1734–1806), had its origin. The French Revolution did not interrupt the existence of the faculty of medicine. The Benedictine monastery that had been converted into the bishop’s palace, was given to house the medical school in 1795. A gallery devoted to the portraits of professors since 1239 contains one of Rabelais.

The school of theology had its origins in lectures in the convents: St. Anthony of Padua, Raymundus Lullus, and the Dominican Bernard of Trilia all lectured. Two letters of King John II prove that a faculty of theology existed at Montpellier independently of the convents, in January 1350. By a Bull of 17 December 1421, Pope Martin V granted canonical institution to this faculty and united it closely with the faculty of law.

In the 16th century the local triumph of Calvinism interrupted the somewhat somnolent Catholic school of theology, which was reinstated in 1622; but the rivalries of Dominicans and Jesuits interfered seriously with the prosperity of the faculty, which disappeared at the Revolution. In better days, among Montpellier’s illustrious pupils of law were Petrarch, who spent four years at Montpellier, and among its lecturers were William of Nogaret, chancellor to Philip IV, Guillaume de Grimoard, afterwards Pope Urban V, and Pedro de Luna, afterwards antipope Benedict XIII.

Like all other provincial universities of France, that of Montpellier was suppressed at the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1793. The faculties of science and of letters were re-established in 1810; that of law in 1880. The university of Montpellier was officially re-organised in 1969, on the aftermath of May 1968 and the students’ revolt all over the country. It was split into its successor institutions the University of Montpellier 1 (comprising the former faculties of medicine, law, and economy), University of Montpellier 2 (science and technology) and University of Montpellier 3 (social sciences, humanities and liberal arts).

On 1 January 2015, the University of Montpellier 1 and the University of Montpellier 2 merged to form the newly recreated University of Montpellier. Meanwhile, the Paul Valéry University Montpellier 3, now only Paul Valéry, remains a separate institution.

Oldest Medical School in the world

Education – Université de Montpellier

Evidence of surgical practices has been in effect in parts of the world as far back as 8000+ years ago, possibly longer. However, medical schools as degree-awarding institutions are a relatively more recent entity. Faimer.org’s worldwide medical school database shows that there are over 2,300 “recognized and operating medical schools” in nearly 180 countries, as of early Feb 2014. Here are 30 of the oldest medical schools.

The criteria here is as follows:

  • The list includes only schools that are active and currently offering accredited medical degrees. Schools no longer in existence are thus left out.
  • In the case of mergers of learning institutions, the oldest date is used provided it refers to some form of medical teaching.
  • Medical institutions closed for more than 30 years are left out. (In some cases, during wars or occupations, relatively old universities were shut down for long periods.)
  • Medical schools have been left out for which an official established date or date range could not be determined.

For example, as to the first criteria, the very first recorded medical school was the Schola Medica Salernitana, in Salerno, Italy — now defunct — which had its heyday from approximately the 11th to 13th centuries. The school is important in that it merged the knowledge of the Greek-Latin medical tradition with the Arabic and Jewish medical traditions of the time. Also, in addition to having female students, the school achieved much of its importance from books published by teachers there.

The majority of the following list references universities that were founded in the Medieval Period (500 AD – 1500 AD). While there are other active medieval-origin universities not listed here that have medical programs today, no conclusive founding dates for their medical school were available.

American medical schools do not make this list. The oldest such school is the School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1765. All other existing American medical schools were founded after this date.


Institute established: Sep 1542

Medical faculty established: Sep 1542

Location: Zaragoza, Spain

The University of Zaragoza had a long and difficult birth. There was an ecclesiastical school in Zaragoza as early as the 7th century, from which the University of Zaragoza had its beginnings. There was also a school of grammar and philosophy that existed in the 12th century, created and funded by a local church. A School of Arts is referenced as early as 1335, which earned a designation General School of Arts between 1474-76, as per authorization from Pope Sixtus IV in Dec 1474 and in Dec 1476, at the petition of Fernando, later King of Aragon. King Juan II of Aragon ratified the General School of Arts in Jan 1477.

However, due to various delays, it was not until Sep 1542 when the university existed de jure (in-law), with permission from the King of Aragon to exist as a “general university of all disciplines” and could grant full degrees. Medicine was one of the original faculties formed in 1542. Papal Bulls of confirmation were later given in 1544 and 1555; however, due to lack of funds and various disagreements, the actual official de facto founding date is in May 1583, according to the university’s founding page. However, a chair of Theology and a chair of Poetry and Rhetoric (1503) were funded by the city government as early as 1500 and 1503, respectively.

Departments currently within the Faculty of Medicine include pathology, human anatomy, surgery, and several others — for a total of seven.

Notable alumni include pathologist/neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal, a Noble Prize winner in “Physiology or Medicine” who is sometimes referred to as the father of modern neuroscience.


Institute established: 1361

Medical faculty established: Before 1520

Location: Pavia, Italy

The origins of teaching in Pavia originate from 825 AD when Emperor Lothair founded a school of higher education that taught rhetoric and law and existed into the 11th century. However, the university was founded as a Studium Generale in 1361 by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, with permission by Pope Boniface IX. Medicine was one of the original four faculties. Currently, there are three hospitals associated with the university, and several programs are being taught in English, including a six-year degree in Medicine.

Notable alumni include Gerolamo Cardano, the illegitimate son of a friend of Leonardo da Vinci, who studied medicine at Pavia starting 1520. While later became a mathematician, he wrote over 200 works on many subjects including medicine, mathematics, physics, philosophy, and more.

Notable faculty include Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri, who contributed to the field of non-Euclidean geometry; physicist Alessandro Volta, credited with the invention of the electric battery cell, and after whom the words volt, voltage, and voltmeter are named; physician Antonio Scarpa, who has several body parts named after him, and whose head is on display at the Institute of Anatomy at Pavia; Nobel Laureate physician Camillo Golgi, whose name is used for various anatomical structures and physiological phenomena. Other associate Nobel Prize winners include physicist Carlo Rubbia and chemist Giulio Natta.

The university has awarded numerous honorary degrees, including one to Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister, a doctor, and athlete who was the first to run a sub-four-minute mile.


Institute established: 1293

Medical faculty established: ~1509

Location: Madrid, Spain

The Studium Generale in Alcala de Henares was founded in 1293, only becoming a university in 1499, as per a Papal Bull from Pope Alexander VI. A faculty of medicine was in operation by at least 1509, possibly earlier.

The university was moved by royal decree to Madrid, then underwent a series of name changes. In the 1970s, after the regime of Francisco Franco, the original name was reinstated, but the school was split into two: Complutense University of Madrid and Technical University of Madrid. (Complutense is derived from Complutensis. Complutum is the Latin name for the original location of Alcala de Henares.)

It is Spain’s top-ranked university and has a long list of collective achievements, including being one of the world’s first universities to have a female student earning a Doctorate degree; having 7 Nobel Laureate alumni and several Laureates in faculty; having a long list of highly-placed and/or high-achieving alumni, including medical pioneers, philosophers, writers, historians, scientists, military leaders, top clergy, politicians at several levels of government including foreign leaders; having Albert Einstein as a brief faculty member at a research institute there named Instituto Albert Einstein, and more.


Institute established: 1471

Medical faculty established: 1481

Location: Genoa, Italy

The College of Theology was founded in 1471, by Papal Bull from Pope Sixtus IV, but the official date of the university’s founding is 1481. On the historical background page on the university’s Web site, they point out that there was a College of Physicians which, along with the College of Law, was decreed exempt from taxes in 1353. However, there is no clear connection between that college and the university’s faculty of medicine — officially created in 1481. The School of Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences currently has six departments, including internal medicine, experimental medicine, and surgical sciences.

Notable alumni include Giacomo Della Chiesa, who was later Pope Benedict XV; Franco Malerba, the first Italian astronaut; Sandro Pertini, who became the 7th President of the Italian Republic; Hugo Pesce, who specialized in the treatment of leprosy.


Institute established: 1479

Medical faculty established: 1479

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

The university was founded in 1479 and is the oldest university in Denmark, and the second-oldest institute of higher learning amongst Scandinavian countries. It was closed briefly, starting in 1531, by the Church — in an attempt to stop the spread of Protestantism — and reopened by King Christian III in 1537, after the Protestant Reformation (transition from Roman Catholicism to Lutheranism).

The medical faculty, which was also founded in 1479, was restructured several times. In 1842, the Faculty of Medicine and the Academy of Surgeons jointly became the Faculty of Medical Science. In 2012, this faculty merged with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and part of the Faculty of Life Sciences to form the current Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.
-Has faculty has programs in medicine, dentistry, human biology, public health, and international health and disaster management.
-The first female student joined the university in 1877.

Nine alumni of the University of Copenhagen became Nobel Laureates, with five of those in Medicine, three in Physics, and one in Chemistry. Laureates include physicist Neils Bohr (alumni, faculty) and his son, nuclear physicist Aage Bohr (alumni, faculty, director of Neils Bohr Institute at Copenhagen). Other notable alumni include astronomer Tyco Brahe, theologian/ philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, several former Prime Ministers of Denmark, and others.


Institute established: 1477

Medical faculty established: 1477

Location: Uppsala, Sweden

The university grew from an ecclesiastical center, becoming a university in 1477 by Papal Bull from Pope Sixtus IV that year. It’s the oldest university in Sweden, and medicine was one of the original four faculties. (The university hospital predates the university, going back to 1302.

A donation by King Gustavus Adolphus in the 17th century helped the university reach some financial stability. The university library now contains over 5 million volumes of books and periodicals, and numerous manuscripts, music prints, maps, and other documents.

There are eight Nobel Prize winners associated with Uppsala, including Dag Hammarskjold (alumni), UN Secretary-General awarded the Peace Prize posthumously in 1961; Nathan Soderblom (faculty), Archbishop of Uppsala, awarded the Peace Prize in 1930.

Other notable faculty include physicist/ astronomer Anders Celsius (after whom the Celsius temperature scale is named), physician/botanist/ zoologist Carl Linnaeus (who is credited as the father of modern taxonomy). Other notable alumni include Niklas Zennstrom, who co-founded Skype instant messaging software and KaZaA online peer-to-peer digital music sharing platform.


Institute established: 1477

Medical faculty established: 1477

Location: Tubingen, Germany

The university was founded in 1477 by Count Eberhard V. The current name, “Eberhard Karls University, Tubingen,” was the result of Duke Karl Eugen adding his first name in 1769. Instead of being a single campus, the university is spread throughout the town of Tubingen.

The university library — which is open to the public — has over 3 million individual volumes. As well, there are over 80 departmental libraries collectively containing another 3 million volumes.

A total of ten faculty and alumni have won the Nobel Prize — five in Chemistry, three in Physiology or Medicine, one in Physics, and one in the Peace category, won by theologian/philosopher/ medical missionary Albert Schweitzer, who later founded Albert Schweitzer Hospital in what is now Gabon in West Africa.

Other notable alumni include: Kurt Georg Kiesinger, former Chancellor of Germany; Alois Alzheimer, after whom “Alzheimer’s disease” is named, due to identifying the illness with a published case report; mathematician/astronomer Johannes Kepler; physicist Hans Geiger, co-inventor of the Geiger counter; physicist Karl Meissner; philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel; physician/biologist Friedrich Miescher, who identified nucleic acid – a component of DNA; and others.

Notable faculty members include Joseph Ratzinger, who was Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI from Apr 2005 to Feb 2013 — the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415.


Institute established: Apr 1460

Medical faculty established: Apr 1460

Location: Basel, Switzerland

The University of Basel is the first in Switzerland, established in Apr 1460, with permission by Papal Bull from Pope Pius II in Nov 1459. Medicine was one of the original four faculties. As of 2010, this faculty had nine units that formed a university medical center. Students of the medical faculty make up the third-largest group in the university.

The University Library of Basel has a collection of over 3 million books and writings, reflecting the city’s history as an important center of book printing.

Notable alumni include mathematician Jacob Bernoulli (after whom the Bernoulli numbers are named), mathematician/ physicist Leonhard Euler, psychiatrist Carl Jung, author/ psychologist Alice Miller and others.


Institute established: 1457

Medical faculty established: 1457

Location: Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

The university was founded in 1457 by the Hapsburgs (Archduke Albert VI, brother to Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III) and originally named Albrechts University (after Albert IV), established by Papal Bull from Pope Calixtus III. Medicine was one of the original four faculties. The current faculty includes programs in medicine, dentistry, and biomedical research.

Freiburg can claim association with 19 Nobel Laureates, 11 of which are in the category of “Physiology or Medicine”, 6 in Chemistry, and 1 in Physics. Notable alumni and faculty include political theorist Hannah Arendt, philosopher Edith Stein (who converted to Catholicism and later became St. Teresa Benedicta), philosopher James Hayden Tufts, sociologist/ philosopher Max Weber, Paul Erlich, humanist/ theologian Erasmus, sociologist Karl Mannheim, filmmaker Wim Wenders, surgeon Vincenz Czerny, and others, including Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.


Institute established: 1413

Medical faculty established: 1450

Location: St Andrews, Scotland

The university was founded between 1410-1413, with a Bull of confirmation from the antipope Benedict XIII (not Pope Benedict XIII) in Aug 1413. Medicine was the third faculty, founded as St Salvator’s College in 1450 and confirmed with a Papal Bull in 1458 (either by Callixtus III or Pius II). However, medicine was taught in the town in 1413.

Starting in 1696 and through part of the 19th century, the medical school awarded MD degrees via a type of distance program, based on their existing medical knowledge, on the testimonial of a supervisor, and a fee paid — all of which could be done via mail. Two such recipients were both scientists: Edward Jenner (who developed the first smallpox vaccine) and French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat (who wrote an essay on gonorrhea). Marat was also a political theorist and radical journalist.

Other notable medical alumni include Edward Jenner, who discovered the smallpox vaccine; Joseph Bancroft, who discovered the parasitic disease filariasis; Sir James Black, who invented the beta-blocker Propranolol and won the university’s only Nobel Prize in Medicine; and others. The university has a total of five Nobel Prize-winning alumni. Of the other four, two are in Chemistry, one in Literature, one in Peace.


Institute established: Oct 1456

Medical faculty established: Oct 1456

Location: Greifswald, Germany

The university was founded in 1456, although teaching was conducted in Greifswald at least as early as 1436. Medicine was an original faculty in 1456.

The university went through several periods, from its original founding to under Sweden, Prussia, Nazi Germany, GDR (East Germany), now under a unified Germany. Besides owning a forest and large amounts of arable land (once about 54 sq miles; claims still pending), the university owns several important historical items, including one of the four remaining Gutenberg bibles. t also runs several museums and collections, including an anatomical collection; a deontological and gynecological collection; a history of medicine collection, and more.

There are two Nobel Prize winners associated with the university: Johannes Stark (1919, prize in Physics) and Gerhard Domagk (1939, prize in Medicine). Other notable people: Prince Bernhardt von Bulow and Otto von Bismarck were both students and later became Chancellors of Germany; poet and politician Ernst Moritz Arndt was both a former student and faculty member, and the full name of the university, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universitat Greifswald, is in his honor.


Institute established: 1404

Medical faculty established: Oct 1436

Location: Turin, Italy

The university was created in 1404 as a Studium. Various Papal Bulls were issued from 1404-1419 by Benedict XIII (Avignon Pope), antipope John XXIII (Pisan Pope), and possibly by Martin V. Roman Emperor Sigmund also gave his certification in 1412. The university was moved to Chieri from 1427-1434 and Savigliano from 1434-1436, after which it returned to Turin.

Ducal licenses of Oct 1436 resulted in the creation of three faculties, including medicine. Due to the French occupation, the university closed from 1536-1558, re-opening at Mondovi and finally at Turin again in 1566.

Notable alumni include: Salvador Luria, Renato Dulbecco, and Rita Levi-Montalcini, each of whom won a Nobel Prize in the category of “Physiology or Medicine”; humanist Erasmus; novelist/ philosopher Umberto Eco; poet/ novelist Cesare Pavese; former Italian Prime Minister Frederico Luigi Menabrea (Count Menabrea, Marquis of Valdora); mathematician Guiseppe Peano, who contributed to 200 books and papers, and for whom the Peano axioms are named. Notable faculty include scientist Amedeo Avogadro (Count of Quaregna), for whom Avogadro’s Constant is named; and anatomist Giuseppe Levi, who mentored all three Nobel Prize winners.


Institute established: Oct 1434

Medical faculty established: Oct 1434

Location: Catania, Italy

The university was established in Oct 1434 as a Studium Generale by King Alfonso V of Aragon (aka King Alfonso I of Sicily) in Oct 1434. It was compensation to the city since the Sicilian capital had been moved to Palermo from Catania. Papal recognition of the university arrived from Pope Eugene IV a decade later in Apr 1444. It’s the oldest Sicilian university and one of the oldest in Italy as well as the world.

Medicine was amongst the original four faculties. The current faculty of Medicine and Surgery has multiple departments including Medical Surgery Specialty, Clinical and Molecular Biomedicine, Biomedical Sciences, and Legal Medicine.

Italian-American alumni Napoleone Ferrara won the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award in 2010, and the $3M Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in 2013. He pioneered new treatments for cancer at Genentech in California.

Notable faculty includes astronomer Agatino San Martino Pardo, who calculated the orbit of the first discovered asteroid, Ceres; volcanologist Giuseppe Mercalli, who invented the Mercalli Scale for earthquake measurement; astronomer Annibale Ricco, who has a moon crater and an asteroid named after him.


Institute established: Apr 1303

Medical faculty established: 1431

Location: Rome, Italy

While the original university was created with a Papal Bull by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303 for ecclesiastical studies, it was not until 1431 that a Faculty of Medicine was created, thanks to Pope Eugene IV. Pope Paul III restored the university in 1534, after the sack of Rome in 1527. A fourth pope, Clement XI, had a hand in the university’s history, building a much-lauded botanical garden using his private funds.

The name Sapienza, which means wisdom, came into use in the 1650s. This high-ranking university has had several notable alumni, including physicist Enrico Fermi, director Bernardo Bertolucci, Maria Montessori (founder of the Montessori method of education), Charles Ponzi (after whom the “Ponzi scheme” term is named). Three alumni were Nobel Prize winners, including the aforementioned Fermi (1938 prize in Physics), plus physicist Emilio Gino Segre (1959 prize in Physics) and Daniel Bovet for the 1957 prize in “Physiology or Medicine.”

Other alumni have included notable mathematicians, economists, architects, politicians and heads of state, poets, playwrights, astronauts, judges, surgeons, and more.


Institute established: Feb 1419

Medical faculty established: Feb 1419

Location: Rostock, Germany

Pope Martin V confirmed the founding of the university in Feb 1419, with a medical faculty amongst the original faculties.

Notable alumni at the university include astronomer Tyco Brahe and philosopher and architect Rudolf Steiner. Theoretical physicists Mac Planck and Albert Einstein each received honorary Doctor of Medicine degrees in 1919 (500th anniversary of Rostock). This was the first university to award an honorary degree to Einstein. It was ordered revoked by the Nazis during the rule (1933-1945) but the order was not carried out. In 1933, several faculty members of Jewish background lost their posts.

Aside from Einstein and Planck, three faculty members or alumni have received Nobel Prizes: medical scientist Albrecht Kossel (1910, Physiology or Medicine), physicist Otto Stern (1943, Physics), and ethologist Karl von Frisch (1973, Physiology or Medicine; co-prize).


Institute established: 1409

Medical faculty established: 1409

Location: Leipzig, Germany

The original institution was found in Dec 1409 by Frederick I (Elector of Saxony), with endorsement from a Papal Bull by Pope Alexander V (in Sep 1409). The original four faculties included medicine.

Notable university alumni include nine Nobel Laureates, including Paul Ehrlich, who won in the category of Medicine. Other alumni: three composer sons of Johan Sebastian Bach; astronomer Tyco Brahe; physicist Ludwig Boltzmann; poet and polymath Johan Wolfgang von Goethe; physicist and Nobel Prize winners Werner Heisenberg and Gustav Ludwig Hertz; philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz; philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche; and more.


Institute established: Jun 1386

Medical faculty established: Jun 1386

Location: Heidelberg, Germany

The university — the oldest in Germany — was established in Jun 1386 by Rupert I (Elector Palatine), with permission coming from Pop Urban VI in Oct 1385. The faculty of medicine was one of the original four faculties at the time. Now called the Heidelberg University School of Medicine, it is the older of the two medical faculties that are part of the University of Heidelberg. Twenty-two institutes make up the School of Medicine, and the University Hospital of Heidelberg is associated with the school. The new 6-year medical degree program instituted in 2001 is adapted from Harvard Medical School’s curriculum.

Amongst notable alumni are: chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, who created the periodic table of elements; surgeon Vincenz Czerny, who contributed to the field of gynecological surgery; and physician Otto Fritz Meyerhof, who co-won the 1922 Nobel Prize in Medicine. In total, there have been at least 55 Nobel Laureates associated with the university, as well as numerous politicians, several philosophers, and many others.

The university has been referenced in fiction and pop culture, including by Mark Twain, William Somerset Maugham, Robert Heinlein, the TV sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” and more.


Institute established: Mar 1365

Medical faculty established: Mar 1365

Location: Vienna, Austria

The University of Vienna was founded by Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria, in Mar 1365. The deed of the foundation was not ratified by then Pope Urban V but was in 1385 by Pope Urban VI.

The medical school was originally established in 1365 as a medical faculty of the University of Vienna. It became an independent university — like all other Austrian medical faculties — on Jan 1, 2004, and took on its current name, Medical University of Vienna. The school has buildings over sixty locations in Vienna and supplies the entire medical staff of the Vienna General Hospital — the largest in Europe.

Among notable faculty and alumni of the original University of Vienna are at least 15 Nobel Prize winners, including at least six in the category “Physiology or Medicine.” Faculty members include quantum physicist Erwin Schrodinger (Nobel Prize winner, creator of the “Schrodinger’s cat” paradox); and poet Enea Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini, who later became Pope Pius II. Alumni include physicist Christian Doppler (after whom the “Doppler effect” is named); neurologist Sigmund Freud, who is known as the founding father of psychoanalysis; Gregor Mendel, who is credited for founding the science of genetics; physician Franz Mesmer, after whom the term mesmerize is derived; Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, who became Pope Pius III; and others.


Institute established: 1364

Medical faculty established: 1364

Location: Krakow, Poland

The main university – the oldest in Poland – was founded in 1364 by King Kazimierz Wielki (Casimir III the Great), in Kazimierz (now a district of Krakow), by permission of Pope Urban V. The current name comes from the re-establishment, between 1390-1400, after a period of inactiveness, by King Wladyslaw Jagiello (Ladislaus Jagiello).

The current medical college, formed in 1949 as the Medical Academy, is top-ranked in Poland and also one of the largest in the country. Aside from a 45-year separation (as of 1993) from the university under the communist regime in Poland, the college was one of the original three faculties. Initially, two chairs in Medicine were funded by the King.

The college has a large, separate medical library (Biblioteka Medyczna). There is also a “School of Medicine in English” program, which attracts students from many countries including the USA and Canada.

Notable alumni include astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, Saint John Cantius, two Nobel Laureates, Leo Sternbach (inventor of benzodiazepine/BZD, which Valium is based on), historian Norman Davies, and many others.


Institute established: 1348

Medical faculty established: 1348

Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Prague’s Charles University has not one but five different faculties of medicine. Three of the faculties are in Prague, two are in Bohemia. The university itself was established in 1348 by the Roman Emperor Charles IV, who was also the then Czech king. The university had a medieval faculty of medicine amongst the four original faculties. The original university underwent name changes and a split in 1882 into German-speaking and Czech-speaking colleges — the latter being what is now Charles University in Prague.

The university has had at least three Nobel Laureate alumni, as well as several accomplished and/or famous alumni, including Charles I of Austria, writer Milan Kundera, socialite Ivana Trump, as well as several alumni in fields related to medicine. Amongst academics were physicist Albert Einstein and write Rainer Maria Rilke at the German college.


Institute established: 1343

Medical faculty established: 1343

Location: Pisa, Italy

The university was established in Sep 1343 by Papal Bull from Pope Clement VI. While there may have been medical teachings before this time, modern degrees were not granted until 1343.

The university has a long list of notable alumni, including Italian political leaders (five prime ministers), foreign political leaders, theologians including five popes, three Nobel Laureates, many scientists, including Enrico Fermi, and many others. For example, physician Vincenzo Chiarugi, who was instrumental in changing the way psychiatric hospitals treated patients with mental disorders, as well as contributed several volumes on psychiatry, dermatology, and other areas of medicine and general health.

Notable faculty have included: Galileo Galilei (who also attended Pisa), who taught mathematics but is also known for being an astronomer, physicist, and engineer; anatomist Gabriele Fallopio, after whom the Fallopian tube between ovaries and uterus is named, but who also contributed to the knowledge of the anatomy of the head; physician Marcello Malpighi, after whom several parts of the excretory system are named (Malpighian corpuscles, Malpighian pyramids, and others).

The university houses the oldest European botanical garden, the Orto Botanico di Pisa.


Institute established: Sep 1308

Medical faculty established: Feb 1321

Location: Perugia, Italy

The original university was established in Sep 1308 Papal Bull of Pope Clement V. A city statute in 1285 pushing for a Studium predates the official creation date, as well as suggests that teaching was already in progress in Perugia.

City archives suggest that medicine was taught in Perugia as early as 1200. However, medical degrees that were valid outside of the city were not offered until Feb 1321, due to another Papal Bull, by Pope John XXII.

Perugia further became an imperial university in 1355, thanks to a Bull from Emperor Charles IV, to help the city recover from the effects of the Black Plague years of 1348-49. Other popes have been instrumental in the university’s history, including at least one who was a faculty member. At least 11 popes were alumni.

Amongst faculty, physician Gentile da Foligno (taught starting 1322) dissected in 1341, becoming the first European physician to do so on a human being. This was a practice that at the time was outlawed by the Christian Church.


Institute established: 1290

Medical faculty established: 1290

Location: Coimbra, Portugal

This university was originally founded in 1290 by King Dinis (aka Denis) in Lisbon, Portugal, with four original faculties, including Medicine. The university moved to Coimbra in 1308 but went back and forth between there and Lisbon for several centuries, then finally settled in Coimbra in 1537, under the reign of King John III of Portugal, at the Alcacova Palace.

Notable faculty members include Nobel Laureate, Portuguese neurologist Egas Moniz, who won the prize in the “Physiology or Medicine” category simultaneously with Swiss physiologist Walter Rudolf Hess (not to be confused with Nazi party member Rudolf Hess).

The current faculty of medicine manages a teaching hospital as well as separate forensic services, via the Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal, to Portuguese police forces and government agencies.

As of 2013, the university was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Institute established: 1240

Medical faculty established: 1245

Location: Siena, Italy

The original University of Siena was founded in Dec 1240 as the Studium Senese. In 1252, teachers and students were declared immune from taxes and forced labor by Pope Innocent IV. The stadium became a Studium Generale in 1355, by the declaration of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor.

The teaching of medicine, at the least, started with the arrival in 1245 of Pietro Ispano (Peter of Spain, aka Pedro Hispano) who taught until about 1250. Espanol is thought by some historians to be the same person as Pedro Juliao (aka Peter Juliani) who became the physician of Pope Gregory X (1271-76), and later became Pope John XXI (Sep 1276 – May 1277) — the only Pope to have been a physician. (One other pope was associated with the university: Giovanni Maria Cocchi del Monte, who study law and late became Pope Julius III, in Feb 1550.)


Institute established: 1222

Medical faculty established: 1399

Location: Padua, Italy

One of the oldest medical schools is at Universita di Padova, a top-ranking Italian university. While the Universitas Aristarum — which taught medicine and other subjects — was officially created in 1399, the university has had a physician’s program and medical teaching since at least 1222 A.D., possibly earlier, according to historical archives.

The medical school has a history owing partly to its anatomical theater where both scientists and artists could study public dissections. Faculty member Andreas Vesalius published his famous book on anatomy, De Humani Corporis Fabrica.

Other notable alumni of the university: physician Sir Edward Greaves; anatomist Gabriele Falloppio; astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus and others.


Institute established: 1923

Medical faculty established: 1321

Location: Florence, Italy

This university was originally founded as a Studium Generale in 1321 by the Florentine Republic. It was recognized by Pope Clement VI in 1349, after which the Stadium could grant regular degrees. It became an imperial university in 1364. During its early history, it was moved back and forth between Pisa and Florence a few times. In its modern form, the university dates from 1859 but was not officially designated a university until 1923, through an act of parliament.

Medicine was one of the original faculties at the Studium. The current School of Health Sciences Human has three departments related to medicine: Translational Medicine and Surgery, Experimental and Clinical Medicine, and Experimental and Clinical Biomedical Sciences.

Notable alumni include; two popes, Nicholas V and Pius II; several political leaders, Italian and foreign; Francois Carlo Antommarchi, physician to the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.


Institute established: ~1096

Medical faculty established: 1220-1255

Location: Oxford, UK

Oxford University itself is the oldest surviving English-speaking university in the world, and the second oldest in the world otherwise. Evidence suggests teaching started around 1096, but there is no known exact founding date.

Medicine has been taught at Oxford since somewhere between 1220-1255. More modern medical degrees started sometime in the 19th century.

Oxford has had many notable faculty and alumni in several fields, including at least 50 Nobel Prize winners covering all six categories — including 16 in medicine. In addition to graduating at least 26 British prime ministers and over a couple of dozen other world leaders (including former U.S. president Bill Clinton), there have been many accomplished alumni in the fields of mathematics, sciences, literature, music, drama, religion, economics and philosophy. This includes Sir Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web), Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, numerous writers and actors, over 12 saints, 120 Olympic medal winners, and many more.


Institute established: 1289

Medical faculty established: 1181

Location: Montpellier, France

While the University of Montpellier was officially formed in Oct 1289, there were known to be teachings in medicine as far back as 1137. The main university ceased operation in 1970, being split into three schools: Montpellier 1 (including the faculty of medicine), Montpellier 2, and Paul Valery Montpellier 3.

The medical school is one of the oldest in the world that is still in operation. Its success was due in part to the Guilhelm VIII act of Jan 1181, which allowed for licensed physicians to lecture in Montpellier without limit — thus attracting teachers and students from outside of Montpellier.

Famous students of the university include Nostradamus (expelled due to being an apothecary) and Rabelais (writer, doctor,


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Institute established: 1989

Medical faculty established: 1123

Location: London, UK

Queen Mary University of London (QML) is formed from the 1989 merger of Westfield College (1882) and Queen Mary College (1885). The medical faculty is formed by the 1995 merger of the Medical College of St Bartholomew’s Hospital that was founded in 1123 and the London Hospital Medical College, founded in 1785.

The combined faculty has had two Nobel Prize winners and several other notable former staff members. Amongst notable alumni have been numerous surgeons, medical missionaries, and others. Celebrity alumni include Graham Chapman (of the comedy group Monty Python fame; deceased), who studied medicine; and Roger Taylor (drummer of the rock band Queen), who studied dentistry.

Barts is a member of the United Hospitals, which is the collective name for all the medical schools in London, most of which are part of the University of London.


Institute established: 1088

Medical faculty established: ~1200

Location: Bologna, Italy

The charter for this university comes from Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa in 1158. However, historians have traced its origins back to 1088 — a date that now appears on the university’s banner. This supposedly makes the University of Bologna the oldest continuously operating university in the world. It is also the first to use the term “university,” which defines the collection of students and professors that form a university.

The university is said to have had women teachers since the 12th century, but on a confirmed basis, Laura Bassi is said to be the world’s first woman university professor. She gained a degree in Philosophy in 1732 and was appointed a chair in Natural Philosophy (aka Physics). In 1736, she has appointed the chair in experimental physics and taught numerous subjects as well as wrote nearly 30 dissertations on chemistry, physics, hydraulics, mathematics, mechanics, and technology. She did all this while also having 12 children.

The faculty of medicine was formed approximately 1200 A.D., according to britannica.com. The faculty is one of several in Europe known for practicing human dissection starting in the 13th century or earlier. The School of Medicine and Surgery has three departments: DIMES (experimental/ diagnostic/ specialty medicine), DIBINEM (Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences), and DIMEC (Medical and Surgical Sciences).

Notable alumni include Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, aka Saint Thomas of Canterbury; artist/ mathematician Albrecht Durer (also faculty); and three popes — Innocent IX, Alexander VI, and Gregory XV. Notable faculty include Gratian, William of Tyre, Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, Nicolaus Copernicus, Paracelsus, Umberto Eco, and physician Marcello Malpighi, after whom various parts of the body are named.

Roaming the Halls of One of the World’s Oldest Medical Schools

University of Montpellier | © Jacqueline Macou / Pixabay

Montpellier is home to the oldest practicing medical school in the world. The Faculty of Medicine was created in the 12th century and sees around 5,000 students pass through its halls. Here is a brief history of one of Montpellier’s finest legacies.

How it began

Medical education in Montpellier was born out of practice at the beginning of the 12th century. From around 1122, it only took under a century for its humble medical landscape of traders and doctors from the Arab and Jewish worlds to evolve into an acknowledged medical school Universitas medicorum. BOOK THE TRAVEL YOU’VE MISSED

A historic building

The Faculty of Medicine lies in a former Benedictine monastery, consisting of an abbey chapel with four towers (now Montpellier’s Cathédrale Saint-Pierre) and three buildings overlooking an inner courtyard surrounded by a cloister. In 1795, The Faculty of Medicine officially took residence in this historic building. Since then, of course, there have been additions and adaptations, such as an extensive library, administrative departments, and so on.

Entrance statues explained…

At the entrance to the medical school, there are two dominating statues, one placed on either side of the large arched doorway. These are two of the school’s most famous professors. Francois de la Peyronie (1678-1747) sits on the left. In 1736, La Peyronie became the first surgeon to King Louis XV and as such, managed to negotiate certain facilities at the school in Montpellier, much to the jealously of other medical schools. On the right is the famed vitalist, Paul Joseph Barthez.

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