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RCSI Luminary: Abraham Colles

Portrait of Abraham CollesAbraham Colles (1773-1843) was a pioneering surgeon and anatomist, and a leading figure in the golden age of Irish Medicine in the nineteenth century. He also had a strong connection with RCSI as a past pupil, professor and President of the College.

Colles’ story begins in the murky era of barber-surgeons, when surgery was a ramshackle, ill-regulated trade. Thanks in large part to Colles’ revolution of his subject, by the end of his career, surgery had been elevated to the status of a highly-respected profession, with Dublin established as a world-leading medical city.

Colles revolutionised the teaching of anatomy during his lifetime, paving the way for new insights into the structure and workings of the human body for centuries to come. Colles’ name continues to be associated with many anatomical structures and conditions to this day – the eponymous Colles fracture is known to practitioners the world over – while the influence of his innovative approach to teaching is apparent in medical curricula the world over.

From the anecdotal marginalia of his lecture notes to colorful correspondence with family members, the Colles Papers offer a glimpse into the wisdom and wit of Colles in his own hand.


Explore the Abraham Colles Papers here.

Explore Colles’ fascinating life and legacy in the Colles at 250 virtual exhibition created by RCSI to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth in 2023, or watch the ‘Colles at 250’ exhibition video below to find out more.

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