Lives of the Presidents

To mark the 350th anniversary of the granting of the first Royal Charter to the College, we launched our Lives of the Presidents project to bring together biographical sketches of all the College's Presidents for the first time.


History of the Presidency

In 1667 King Charles II granted a Royal Charter to the Fraternity of Physicians of Trinity Hall, establishing it as the College of Physicians of Dublin. This Charter established the office of President of the College and named John Stearne, the founder of the Fraternity, as President for life. Between the death of Stearne in 1669 and the granting of the second Royal Charter in 1692, the term of office of the President was not prescribed. With continuing political turmoil in Ireland during these decades the election of the College Presidents was erratic and not well recorded.

The second Royal Charter granted to the College in 1692 specified that the President of the College was to be elected on St Luke's Day, 18th October, for a one-year term. Patrick Dun was named in the Charter as the first President of the re-founded College. In 1829 the College increased the normal term of the presidency to two years. This was increased again in 1927 to a three-year term, which it remains today. Except in special circumstances, since 1692 RCPI's Presidents have taken up and demitted from office on 18 October, the feast day of St Luke the patron saint of medicine.

View a full list of the contributors to the project 

View a bibliography of the main sources used in compiling the biographies

Lives of the Presidents

President: 1667 - 18 November 1669

John Stearne

1624 - 1669

John Stearne, Professor of Medicine in Trinity College, founded the Fraternity of Physicians of Trinity Hall in 1654. In 1667 Stearne's Fraternity was incorporated as the College of Physicians of Dublin by Royal Charter and the Charter named Stearne as President for life.

Read the full biography of John Stearne

President: 15 Feb 1672-1674

Sir Abraham Yarner


Abraham Yarner arrived in Ireland as a Royalist soldier and he ended his career as a Knight of the Realm, Freeman of Dublin, ‘Doctor of Physick’ and the first elected President of the College.

Read the full biography of Sir Abraham Yarner

President: 1674-1675, 1695-1696, 1701-1702, 1707-1708

Ralph Howard


Ralph Howard was one of the fourteen Fellows named in the 1667 Charter, and one of Stearne's successors as Regius Professor of Physic in Trinity College. In 1693 Howard fought a duel with Sir Patrick Dun, another College President. The dispute is believed to have been over an appointment.

Read the full biography of Ralph Howard

Portrait of Ralph Howard, 1710, by Hugh Howard. Image courtesy of The Board of Trinity College Dublin

President: 1675-1677

Charles Willoughby

c.1630 -1694

Charles Willoughby was one of the fourteen founding Fellows of the College named in the 1667 Charter. A physician and scientist, he was a founder and effectively the first President of the Dublin Philosophical Society to which he contributed papers on mathematics and physics.

Read the full biography of Charles Willoughby

President: 1677-1681

Robert Waller


Robert Waller was one of the founding Fellows of the College named in the 1667 Royal Charter. He was also State Physician to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, a position he filled ‘very faithfully & with good success’.

Read the full biography of Robert Waller

President: 1681-1686, 1690-1693, 1696-1697, 1698-1699, 1706-1707

Sir Patrick Dun


Patrick Dun was physician to King William III's armies in Ireland, and used his influence with the King to lobby for a second Royal Charter for the College, granted in 1692. Upon his death, Dun left a substantial trust to support the development of medical education in Ireland.

Read the full biography of Sir Patrick Dun

President: 1687-1690 (election not confirmed)

John Crosby

Unknown - [1692]

John Crosby was elected as President by the College of Physicians, but the election was not ratified by Trinity College probably because of Crosby's Catholicism. The College of Physicians refused to elect another President for three years.

Read the full biography of John Crosby

President: 1694-1695, 1697-1698, 1700-1701

John Madden


John Madden was named as a Fellow of the College in the 1692 Royal Charter and worked hard to expand the power of the College. He was also an antiquarian and collector of books and manuscripts.

Read the full biography of John Madden

President: 1699-1700

Duncan Cumings


Duncan Cumings served as Physician to the Williamite armies in Ireland, and was named as one of the Fellows of the College in the 1692 Royal Charter.

Read the full biography of Duncan Cumings