Regius Professors of Physick

MS. Eng. d. 4073

Henry VIII founded the post of the Regius Professor of Physick (Medicine) at Oxford towards the end of his reign. A new item purchased by the library in 2010, the ‘Memoranda regarding the Regius Professors of Physick & the Readers in Anatomy in the University of Oxford’, lists and describes each post-holder from the first one in 1535 to 1792, when the memoranda was updated.

This small manuscript notebook makes fascinating reading. Its original author is unknown but internal evidence suggests that it was written in the 1770s and then annotated by the antiquarian and Registrar of Oxford University, John Gutch, in 1794.

The Regius Professor of Physick and the Reader in Anatomy were often the same person, and sometimes posts were passed down from father to son. The 7th Regius Professor, Thomas Clayton, is described as, ‘the Son of the first Reader, & the Office devolv’d upon him as Regius Professor: but being averse to the sight of a dead Body / Wood says of a timorous & effeminate Humour / he employ’d William Petty as his Deputy in whose Favor he resign’d the Readership in January 1650’.

Since the foundation of the post there have been 30 Regius Professors of Medicine at Oxford, the current one being John Irving Bell, the immunologist and geneticist. Saving Oxford Medicine has been tracing the archives of all the 20th Century Regius Professors and the results have been published on our website.

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