Open Access Articles- Top Results for Roy Porter

Roy Porter

For the American jazz drummer, see Roy Porter.

Roy Sydney Porter[1] (31 December 1946 – 3 March 2002) was a British historian known for his important work on the history of medicine. He retired in 2001 from the director of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine at University College, London.


Porter grew up in South London and attended Wilson's School in Camberwell.[2] He won a scholarship to Christ's College, Cambridge, where he studied under J. H. Plumb.[1] His contemporaries included Simon Schama and Andrew Wheatcroft. He achieved a double starred first[2][3] and became a junior Fellow in 1968, studying under Robert M. Young and lecturing on the British Enlightenment.[1] In 1972, he moved to Churchill College as the Director of Studies in History, later becoming Dean in 1977.[2][3] He received his doctorate in 1974, publishing a thesis on the history of geology as a scientific discipline.[4] 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.[4]

In 1979 he joined the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine (part of the University College, London) as a lecturer. In 1993 he became Professor of Social History at the Institute.[2][3] He briefly served as its Director. In 2000, Porter published The Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World. He retired in September 2001, moving to the Sussex coast, where he wanted to learn to play the saxophone, cultivate his allotment and engage in some travelling.[1][4][5] He died of a heart attack five months later, while cycling.[5] His memorial service was on 22 April 2002 at St Pancras Parish Church.[5]

He was married five times, firstly to Sue Limb (1970), then Jacqueline Rainfray (1983), then Dorothy Watkins (1987), then Hannah Augstein, and finally his wife at the time of his death, Natsu Hattori.[1][3][6]

He was known for the fact that he needed very little sleep.[2][3][5]

Media appearances

Roy Porter made many television and radio appearances. He was an original presenter of BBC Radio 3's Nightwaves,[2] a programme on which he was scheduled to appear, discussing doctors in literature, at the point of his death.[1]

He also spoke at a large variety of events, and was known for his oratory talents.[4]


Roy Porter was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1994, and was made an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.[3][4][5]

A plaque for the memory of Roy Porter was unveiled by the Mayor of Lewisham in a ceremony that took place on Thursday 5 June at 13 Camplin Street, New Cross Gate, London.[7]


Starting with the publishing of his PhD thesis, as The Making of Geology in 1977, Porter wrote or edited over 100 books,[3][4] an academic output that was, and is, considered remarkable.[1][3] He is particularly notable for his work in the history of medicine, in pioneering an approach that focuses on patients rather than doctors.[2][3] Despite his recognition in the history of medicine, he is quoted as saying, "I'm not really a medical historian. I'm a social historian and an 18th century man".[5] In addition to the history of medicine and other sciences, he specialised in the social history of 18th-century Britain and the Enlightenment. He also wrote and lectured on the history of London. With G. E. Berrios, Porter published A History of Clinical Psychiatry (1985) and co-edited the international journal History of Psychiatry (1989).[8] He also edited the journal History of Science for many years.[2][5]

In 2007 Roberta Bivins and John V. Pickstone edited Medicine, Madness and Social History: Essays in Honour of Roy Porter (Palgrave Macmillan). Several of the essays address Porter's work directly, and William F. Bynum appends a biographical sketch.

On the history of science

On the history of medicine

  • The History of Medicine: Past, Present and Future (Uppsala, 1983)
  • A Social History of Madness: Stories of the Insane (London, 1987; 1989; 1996) (ISBN 9780297792239)
  • Disease, Medicine, and Society in England, 1550–1860 (London, 1987; Basingstoke, 1993; Cambridge, 1995) (ISBN 9780333398654)
  • Mind-Forg'd Manacles: A History of Madness in England from the Restoration to the Regency (London, 1987; 1990) (ISBN 9780485113242)
  • Health for Sale: Quackery in England, 1660–1850 (Manchester and New York, 1989) (ISBN 9780719019036)
  • Doctor of Society: Thomas Beddoes and the Sick Trade in Late Enlightenment England (London, 1991)
  • The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity (London, 1997; 1999) ISBN 978-0-393-04634-2

On the Enlightenment

  • Edward Gibbon: Making History (London, 1988) (ISBN 9780297793373)
  • The Enlightenment (Basingstoke, 1990; 2001)
  • Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World (London, 2000) (ISBN 9780713991529)
    • Published in the USA as The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment (New York, 2000) (ISBN 9780393048728)

On social history

  • English Society in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1982; Harmondsworth, 1990) (ISBN 9780140220995)
  • London: A Social History (London, 1994; 1996; 2000) (ISBN 9780674538382)
  • The Rise and Fall of London's Town Centres: Lessons for the Future (London, 1996) (ISBN 9781899626250)

History Today Articles

  • "Under the influence": mesmerism in England (September 1985)
  • The Rise and Fall of the Age of Miracles (November 1996)
  • Bethlam/Bedlam: Methods of Madness? (October 1997)
  • Reading is Bad for your Health (March 1998)
  • Matrix of modernity – Roy Porter discusses how the British Enlightenment paved the way for the creation of the modern world (April 2001)
  • The body politic: diseases and discourses – Roy Porter shows how 18th-century images of the medical profession flow over into the work of political caricaturists (October 2001)


As editor

Books about Roy Porter

  • Remembering Roy Porter (2002, The Wellcome Trust)
  • Medicine, Madness and Social History: Essays in Honour of Roy Porter (2007) ISBN 9780230525498


  1. ^ a b c d e f g 'Professor Roy Porter', The Telegraph, 5 March 2002 (accessed 14 March 2009)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h John Forrester, "Obituary: Professor Roy Porter", The Independent, 6 March 2002 (accessed 14 Mar 2009)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i W F Bynum, "Obituary: Roy Porter", The Guardian, 5 March 2002 (accessed 14 Mar 2009)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Julia Sheppard, 'Obituary: Roy Porter 1946–2002', Medical History, 3 (2002)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Hugh Freeman, 'Obituaries: Roy Porter, Formerly Medical and Social Historian', Psychiatric Bulletin, 26 (2002): 398–399
  6. ^
  7. ^ The Roy Porter Memorial Plaque Unveiling on the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine at UCL website
  8. ^
  9. ^ Griffiths, Joanna (9 Feb 2002). "Review: Madness: A Brief History by Roy Porter". The Guardian. 
  10. ^ Grob, Gerald N. (1 May 2003). "Review: Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine by Roy Porter". N Engl J Med 348: 1823–1824. doi:10.1056/NEJM200305013481823. 

External links

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