King's College London

In 2015, the Peter Sowerby Foundation awarded King’s a grant of £1,430,746 over ten years to establish a chair in Philosophy and Medicine, a joint venture between King’s Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine, and the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery.  

Medics and philosophers confront many of the same great issues – life and death, body and mind, knowledge and judgement – but too rarely engage with each other,’ said David Aspinall, Chair of the Trustees of the Peter Sowerby Foundation. ‘Since his training at King’s and Guy’s in the 1950s and throughout his career, Dr Peter Sowerby has wanted to see practitioners better equipped to engage with such vital issues in the course of delivering patient care.

This grant is a particular passion of Dr Sowerby’s, as he was passionate about the importance of the study of philosophy within medical training.

The aims of this role are:

  • To build on the groundwork of the Centre for Humanities and Health and to commission and lead research in the field of philosophy and medicine
  • To serve as a vehicle for a strong drive within the King’s Department of Philosophy to pursue a keen examination of the relationship between the disciplines of philosophy and medicine
  • To foster a generation of students - medical students in particular - with an interest in the crossover of philosophy and medicine 

This involves the development of ground-breaking work on the relationship between philosophy and medicine, exploring the profound connections between abstract philosophical ideas and medical thought, and aiming at reinstating the philosophical tradition at the heart of medical learning. The work is designed to bring together philosophers, medical practitioners (including those working in mental health and psychiatry), and scientists.

In 2018 Professor Alexander Bird (CV: Metaphysics and epistemology of science and medicine, University of Bristol) was appointed the new Peter Sowerby Professor of Philosophy and Medicine.

"Thanks to the funding we receive from the Peter Sowerby Foundation philosophy is now a firm fixture in the medical curriculum. This is unique in the UK — optional study of philosophy is available in some medical schools, but nowhere else are all medical students expected to study philosophy. Our teaching will, we hope, be a model for other medical schools."
Peter Sowerby Professor of Philosophy and Medicine, Prof Alexander Bird

The Chair’s future objectives are to promote philosophical and critical thinking as valuable inputs in Continuing Professional Development, seek to influence the adoption of philosophy in other medical training centres of excellence, and convene a reproducibility network to improve medical research.

The support from The Peter Sowerby Foundation allows King’s to build on its reputation as a leading university providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. King’s is currently ranked sixth in the UK for quality and quantity of research activity with 84 per cent of that research classed as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. King’s continues to lead the way on research and pioneers new ideas to make the world a better place.