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John Radcliffe (1652–1714)


John RadcliffeThis statue of John Radcliffe at the Radcliffe Observatory, commissioned by the Radcliffe Trustees
and the Ashmolean Museum and sculpted by Martin Jennings, was unveiled in September 2018

John Radcliffe was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire in early 1652, the son of George Radcliffe, and was baptised at All Saints Church there on 23 January that year.

On 23 March 1665/6, with his age recorded as fifteen although he was actually only thirteen, he was matriculated at the University of Oxford by University College, with his father described as a “pleb”. He obtained his B.A. in 1668 and his B.Med. in 1675, and was a Fellow of Lincoln College until 1677, but had to resign his Fellowship then because he did not wish to take Holy Orders (as was required under the University statutes).

He took lodgings in Oxford with a Mr Adams to the west of St Mary-the-Virgin Church, later moving to the lodgings of a Mr Hicks, and practised medicine with great success in Oxford. He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1682.

In 1884 he moved to London, where he was physician to Princess Anne of Denmark. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1687.

He was also Member of Parliament for Bramber from 1690 to 1695 and for Buckingham from 1713 to 1714.

John Radcliffe died at his house at Carshalton, Surrey on 1 November 1714 and his body was brought to Oxford He was buried in St Mary-the-Virgin Church, Oxford, where there is the following plaque:

Plaque in St Mary-the-Virgin

In his will dated 13 September 1714 he left annuities to his two sisters and left the bulk of his estate to University College for buiding and operating a library (the Radcliffe Camera, completed 1747, and originally limited to books on medicine and natural science) and for enlarging college buildings, two medical travelling fellowships, and faculty annuities. Funds from additional trusts were used to build the Radcliffe Infirmary, the Radcliffe Observatory, and the Radcliffe Lunatic Asylum (later renamed the Warneford). When the science books were moved to a new library in 1901, that too was given his name: the Radcliffe Science Library.

See entry for John Radcliffe in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which gives his year of birth as 1850.

The following address to the public from the Radcliffe Trustees appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 29 October 1768:

The Trustees acting under the Will of Dr. Radcliffe being desirous of applying the monies left to their disposal in a manner most consonant to the idea of the Benefactor, and most conducive to the good of Mankind; have judged that these desirable objects could be in no way so effectually and properly answered, as by the Institution of a General Infirmary,—They were naturally induced to wish that this design might be executed in or near the City of Oxford; Not only upon account of the filial predilection which Dr. Radcliffe ever showed to that University (where he had so happily imbibed the first Principles of his Art); but also upon consideration of peculiar local advantages to be expected from proximity to a Seminary of Knowledge; out of which, among other sciences, that of Physic is continually transplanted to every part of these Kingdoms.

Radcliffe buildings
The Radcliffe Camera on the left, the John Radcliffe Hospital in Headington on the horizon,
and St Mary-the-Virgin Church where John Radcliffe is buried on the right

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