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The history of St John’s Institute of Dermatology

Discover our achievements since 1863

The history

St John’s Institute of Dermatology was founded in 1863 by John Milton, a surgeon who’s career was cut short by hand eczema. He wanted to cater for a special group of patients who not only suffered from their condition, but also the public stigma associated with it. This is at a time where you could lose your job for having a skin disorder.

After opening at Leicester Square, London, the Institute suffered a turbulent start. Staff disputes almost led to the hospital shutting down, on two occasions. The coming decades were defined by many challenges, including multiple moves to new buildings, and resentment by generalists about the growth of specialist hospitals.

However, despite this, by the start 20th Century, the hospital was treating 8,000 new patients a year. By World War II, more than 65,000 patients a year were attending, which required the utilisation of space at institutions up to 8 miles away to cope with the demand. Although St John’s was not the first hospital for skin diseases in the UK, it quickly established itself as the best. In the 1980’s St John’s gradually relocated to St Thomas’ Hospital. In 1993, St Thomas’ merged with Guy’s Hospital to form a single Trust, and gradually the majority of the Institute has moved to Guy’s.


St John’s Hospital at 49 Leicester Square (1887-1905)


St John’s Hospital at 5 Lisle Street (1935 -1990)

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150 years after it’s inception, St John’s is an internationally renowned clinical, research and educational Institute epitomising the tripartite mission of King's Health Partners, our Academic Health Science Centre, and providing a world class service to 10,000 new patients annually from around the country and the globe with the most complex, challenging skin conditions known to medicine.


It has pioneered new treatments and techniques, identified new conditions, and deepened understanding of the mechanisms of disease. In doing so it has brought relief to hundreds of thousands of patients. We have over 40 Consultant Dermatologists and Professors, over 30 clinical nurse specialists, and treat over 10,000 new patients with the most challenging skin conditions annually.


Guy’s Hospital next to The Shard


Research is a key part of St John’s , which has more citations in the research literature than any comparable institute.

Find out more about who the academy is aimed at and what resources it hopes to provide, by clicking below

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