Lord Nuffield History

Lord Nuffield’s innovative approach to his own commercial enterprises and his monumental commitment to the advancement of medicine reflects the Nuffield Department of Medicine’s strong commitment to translating research into the clinic today.

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Photo courtesy of the Nuffield Foundation

William Morris, born in 1877, left Cowley School at fifteen to enter an apprenticeship as a cycle repairer. After building bicycles, he went on to manufacture motorcycles, and finally, after purchasing a garage on Hollywell Street, in Oxford, started manufacturing his famous Morris motorcars.

While the name Morris is now synonymous with Britain’s much loved Minors and Minis, his Viscount name, Lord Nuffield, has become equally aligned with the advancement of medicine.

A prolific philanthropist, Lord Nuffield made almost a thousand separate charitable donations between the World Wars, following his overwhelming success as a car manufacturer. These charitable donations culminated in the formation of the Nuffield Foundation in 1943.

Whether it was the Viscount's early interest in studying medicine, or his often-documented hypochondria that led him to support advances in medicine, there is no denying Lord Nuffield’s strong connection to the field. He first offered the University of Oxford £2 million in 1937 to support the then Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir Farquhar Buzzard, with his vision to establish a postgraduate school of clinical medicine in Oxford.

The first four Nuffield Professors in Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Anaesthetics were elected in 1937, while other chairs were soon created in Pathology and Radiology. Departments in each field developed quickly and grew to not only include medical training, but also medical research.

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Lord Nuffield workshop cabinet; photo courtesy of the National Trust

Over time this group of medical training and medical research departments culminated to form what is now the largest clinical department within the University of Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division, the Nuffield Department of Medicine.

As the largest clinical medicine department within one of the world’s top Universities, NDM has a responsibility to ensure that its research remains outward looking and global in its significance. By nurturing both a thriving and multi-disciplinary community of scientists in Oxford and abroad, as well as maintaining strong relationships with partner universities, institutions, and industry, NDM continues to honour Lord Nuffield by having a significant impact on the quality of life of individuals on a local and global scale.

To find out more about Lord Nuffield’s life and career visit Nuffield Place near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.