Roy Porter (1946-2002)


Professor Roy Sydney Porter FBA (m. 1965), was a British historian known for his work on the history of medicine.

Porter grew up in South London and attended Wilson's School in Camberwell, before winning a scholarship to Christ's College where he studied History under J. H. Plumb. His contemporaries included Simon Schama and Andrew Wheatcroft. At Christ’s he achieved a double starred first and became a junior Fellow of the College in 1968. In 1972, he moved to Churchill College as the Director of Studies in History, later becoming Dean in 1977. He received his doctorate in 1974, on the history of geology as a scientific discipline. He was then appointed to the post of Assistant Lecturer in European History at Cambridge University and promoted to Lecturer in European History in 1977.

In 1979 he joined the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine as a lecturer, later becoming Professor of Social History in 1993. He also briefly served as its Director. During this time he built up a reputation for publishing books, articles and reviews at an astonishing rate. Over his lifetime he wrote (or edited and part-wrote) over 100 books. He also spoke at a large variety of events, and was known for his oratory talents.

Porter made many television and radio appearances. He was an original presenter of BBC Radio 3's Night Waves, a programme on which he was scheduled to appear, discussing doctors in literature, at the point of his death.

Less than 6 months after his early retirement from the Wellcome Institute, Roy Porter died in 2002 from a heart attack, aged 55. In memory of his life a commemorative plaque can now be seen in Camplin Street, New Cross where he lived as a child.