The RSM coat of arms
In 1926 the President of the Royal Society of Medicine, Sir St Clair Thomson (1859-1943), declared
"It is in accordance with the dignity of the Royal Society of Medicine that it should bear arms, and therefore, recommends that the Society apply to the Heralds College for a grant of arms".
St Clair Thomson offered to pay for the arms.
The first design
A committee was formed to discuss the design, they asked the advice of a well-known scholar, Oswald Barron who suggested 4 parts:
(the appendage fixed to the top of the helmet in a
coat of arms)
Hand holding a bunch of herbs either wound-wort, or all heal [stachys palustris].
Folia Ligni ad sanitatem gentium.
A tree scattering leaves, symbolic of a tree of learning or healing, the leaves being distributed typifying the spread of knowledge or healing.
Unicorns with collars - protectors and symbols of virginity or two human figures representing medicine and surgery.
The ecclesiastical designer, Martin Travers (1886-1948), drew designs based upon these ideas which by May 1926 were sent to the committee for comment.
The design, however, wasn't well received by the committee, one of whom described the crest as being like "a flower pot". The tree and its shedding leaves was thought to be "an unfortunate bit of symbolism" and was replaced by the snake of Moses bisected by green and red signifying medicine and surgery.
Lack of consensus
It was decided that the supporters should be people rather than unicorns but the committee was deadlocked as to whom to chose.
SS. Bartholemew and Luke were ruled out as they were deemed to be too closely related to particular hospitals. Harvey, Hunter, Asclepius and Hygeia were all rejected.
By February 1927 Geoffrey Edwards (Secretary of the RSM) was so exasperated at the lack of consensus by the committee that he even suggested that the different designs should be sent to the College of Arms and that the College should be asked to make a decision as to which was the most suitable.
The final design
SS. Cosmas and Damian were eventually chosen, although they were already patron saints of the Barber-Surgeons, they were not depicted on any coat of arms.
The arms were finally presented to the Fellows of the Royal Society of Medicine on 18 October 1927.
The Coat of Arms today
The Coat of Arms was redrawn in 1994 by Beverly Middleton of Middleton Design Associates.