Bodleian Libraries' new exhibition celebrates life and legacy of John Radcliffe

24 November 2014

A new exhibition at the Bodleian Libraries explores the life and legacy of John Radcliffe, the doctor and philanthropist who gave Oxford some of its most iconic buildings. Remembering Radcliffe: 300 years of science and philanthropy opens to the public on 28 November and marks the 300th anniversary of the physician's death.

Portrait of Johannes RadcliffeJohn Radcliffe (bap 1650–1714) was the most successful doctor of his day and was sought after as a physician to the royal family. On his death he left the bulk of his fortune to charitable causes.

With beautiful engravings, watercolours and architectural drawings, the Bodleian's free exhibition tells the story of the Oxford landmarks funded by Radcliffe's legacy: the Radcliffe Camera - the first circular library in Britain, the Radcliffe Observatory and the Radcliffe Infirmary - the precursor of the modern John Radcliffe Hospital. The exhibition also looks at Radcliffe's ongoing legacy in the work of The Radcliffe Trust.

'This is a wonderful opportunity for people to learn more about this remarkable physician and philanthropist,' said Richard Ovenden, Bodley's Librarian. 'John Radcliffe's legacy lives on today – not only in Oxford's stunning buildings but through his legacy's investment in scientific research and its support for UK heritage and crafts, and classical music performance and composition through The Radcliffe Trust.'

Highlights of the exhibition:

  • Architectural designs by Nicholas Hawksmoor and James Gibbs for Dr Radcliffe’s Library, which later became the Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Library
  • A 3D scale model of the Radcliffe Camera from 1735
  • Rare and first edition books from the first collection of books housed in the Radcliffe Camera
  • Early photographs and maps of Oxford including the buildings that bear Radcliffe’s name
  • Watercolours, sketches and engravings of the Radcliffe Camera, Radcliffe Observatory and Radcliffe Infirmary
  • Medical instruments, prescriptions and records from Radcliffe’s medical career
  • Letters, diary entries and other materials related to Radcliffe’s life and death
  • Silverware, stone carvings and basket weavings produced by contemporary artists supported by The Radcliffe Trust

Image of the exterior of the Radcliffe Camera'The exhibition explains how an 18th century doctor became one of Oxford's greatest benefactors,' said curator Stephen Hebron. 'Visitors can discover the story behind one of Oxford's most famous buildings, the Radcliffe Camera, including its origins, its design, how it was built, and its role as a university library.'

On his death in 1714 Radcliffe left the bulk of this fortune to the University of Oxford, including £40,000 for the construction of the Radcliffe Camera, funds for an extension to University College and provision for two travelling fellowships in medicine. He stipulated that the residue of his estate be used for charitable purposes, forming the basis of The Radcliffe Trust. The Trust continues to this day and supports classical music performance and training as well as the UK's heritage and crafts sector. To celebrate their tercentenary, The Radcliffe Trust has generously supported the Bodleian Libraries' Remembering Radcliffe exhibition.

'If the amazing Dr Radcliffe had done no more than create the Radcliffe Camera as a monument to his memory this would have been an extraordinary achievement,' said Felix Warnock, Chairman of The Radcliffe Trust. 'As it is, his endowment of The Radcliffe Trust was if anything even more visionary: the Trust, one of the very first grant-making charities, now stands on the threshold of a remarkable fourth century of philanthropic giving. We welcome you to the exhibition and accompanying events and hope you leave enriched and inspired by this truly original and remarkable benefactor.'

Remembering Radcliffe: 300 years of science and philanthropy

28 November 2014–20 March 2015

Opening hours

Monday to Friday 9am–5pm
Saturday 9am–4.30pm
Sunday 11am–5pm

Exhibition Room, Bodleian Library, Old Schools Quad, Catte Street, Oxford

Open to all
Admission free
No booking required



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