Celebrating the life of Sir Roger Bannister


Guests at the post-symposium reception

Guests at the post-symposium reception

Friends and colleagues came together to celebrate the Imperial alumnus, esteemed neurologist and runner of the first sub-four-minute mile.

At the event, which took place at the Royal College of Physicians, recollections of the medical life and works of Sir Roger Bannister were given by his friends and colleagues.

Sport needs its heroes. Sir Roger Bannister was one of its greatest.” Steve Cram Chancellor of University of Sunderland and former Olympic silver medallist

Born in Harrow in 1929, Sir Roger was renowned for being the first person to run a mile in under four minutes in 1954, while training as a junior doctor.

He studied medicine at the University of Oxford before attending St Mary’s Medical School, now part of Imperial College London.

Professor Jonathan Weber, Dean of Imperial College London’s Faculty of Medicine, said: “In 1954, Roger Bannister became arguably the most famous medical student in the world, probably the most famous medical student there’s ever been.”

Professor Weber recalled working with Sir Roger on two occasions – the first as a junior doctor at St Mary’s Hospital during the AIDs epidemic, the second twenty years later when he was tasked with refurbishing the former medical school building at St Mary’s and Sir Roger chaired the St Mary’s Development Trust. Professor Jonathan Weber

“We persuaded him to let us refurbish and name a lecture theatre after him. Just as we were finishing the rebuild, Roger appeared with an old stopwatch to put in the lecture theatre, the identical watch you can see in the iconic photograph of Roger breaking the cord at the end of the race.”

The lecture theatre named in his honour was opened in 2004.

  • Lady Bannister
  • Guests at the reception
  • Students from the Royal College of Music

Sporting hero

Guests also heard from Steve Cram, Chancellor of University of Sunderland and former Olympic silver medallist, who spoke about Sir Roger’s sporting achievements. He said: “It’s very rare that your sporting career can be summed up in the space of four minutes. There have only been 13 of us since then who have had the privilege to break the world record. He captured the pioneering spirit of the times and what he did was magnified around the world. 

Steve Cram“He understood and epitomised all that we recognise in great champions: human endeavour, driven by fierce desire to find your limits. Break barriers and go beyond what others do or even what they expect. But to do it in a manner which is respectful of others and is humble in success.

“Sport needs its heroes. Sir Roger Bannister was one of its greatest.” 

Continuing legacy

Dafydd Thomas, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Neurology at Imperial College London and current chair of the St Mary’s Development Trust, said: “In these noble halls, it is no mean complement to say that Roger was an outstanding physician. And he wasn’t a bad neurologist either. Roger, thank you so much and well done.” Dafyyd Thomas

At the event, a new Sir Roger Bannister student prize was announced, to be awarded annually by The St Mary’s Development Trust.

The Association of British Neurologists will also name one of its prestigious clinical research training fellowships after Sir Roger in recognition of his enormous contribution to medicine and neurology.

The UCL Institute of Neurology at Queens Square will also establish a Sir Roger Bannister Memorial Lecture to be delivered every two years by an internationally leading academic neurologist.

  • Guests at the reception
  • Guests at the reception
  • Guests at the reception


Joanna Wilson

Joanna Wilson
Communications Division

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 3970
Email: joanna.wilson@imperial.ac.uk

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