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Biographical entry Morris, Sir William Richard, Viscount Nuffield (1877 - 1963)

Hon FRCS 9 December 1948; Hon FFARCS 14 November 1957; Viscount 1948; Baron 1934; Baronet 1929; CH GCB; FRS.

10 October 1877
22 August 1963


Born on 10 October 1877 he grew up at Oxford and when he was 16 started to earn his living in a bicycle shop. Very soon he had his own shop, was winning bicycle-races, and designed and sold first a bicycle and then a motor-cycle. Capital accumulated and in 1904, aged 27, he started his Morris Garage. Car-driving was becoming fashionable, but cars were expensive and temperamental. Morris acquired a small factory at Cowley, then on the edge of Oxford, and in 1913 produced the first cheap but reliable British car. Through the war of 1914-18 his works served the national cause, but after 1919 his success was phenomenal. He had a talent for design, though untrained, a genius for business, and an unlimited capacity for hard work. Moreover, with all his energy and determination, he remained straightforward and simple through years of success. The Morris-Cowley and the Morris-Oxford cars took the public fancy, and within six years he was selling 60,000 cars a year.

The long series of Morris's benefactions began in 1926. Hospitals in Birmingham and West-Midland towns were nobly helped, St Thomas's in London received a princely gift, but Morris's generosity favoured Oxford above all. Beginning with support for the Radcliffe Infirmary, he also, on the wise advice of G R Girdlestone FRCS, created an orthopaedic service for the whole district, centred on the Wingfield-Morris Hospital. His munificent help for Guy's Hospital began in 1934, and in 1936 he established a £2 million Trust to develop the Medical School of Oxford University, where five Nuffield Professorships were first founded and several ancillary Departments created. At Oxford he also founded Nuffield College for graduate research into social problems in 1938. Morris was created a Baronet in 1929, was raised to the peerage as Lord Nuffield in 1934 and advanced to a Viscountcy in 1938.

Lord Nuffield's most influential contribution to medicine was the creation in 1939 of the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust, parallel to King Edward VII's Fund for the Hospitals of London. This Trust facilitated the raising of standards throughout the country, and prepared the way for the integration of the Hospitals into well-organised groups. He established the Nuffield Foundation in 1943 to arrange the distribution of his bounty, but he himself continued to give detailed personal attention to every cause which he supported.

He made princely donations to the College during the period of post-war reconstruction, first to provide from 1948 a temporary student's residence by reconditioning 44 and 45 Lincoln's Inn Fields at the west of the College, and subsequently to build the Nuffield College at the east side, providing eighty-seven bed-sitting rooms for graduate students, with common-rooms, recreation facilities, a dining hall, a flat for the President and another for the Warden, etc.

When the Faculty of Dental Surgeons established a Department of Dental Science within the College, Lord Nuffield munificently endowed the Professorial Chair for this new Department in 1956.

The College recognised Lord Nuffield's vast gifts to medicine by awarding him its rarely given Honorary Medal in 1942. He was only the nineteenth recipient in 140 years of this medal which is voted for "liberal acts or distinguished labours eminently conducive to the improvement of natural knowledge and the healing art". He was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1948, and for the great support he had given to research in anaesthesia and its practical application he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Anaesthetists at the College in 1953.

When he was admitted to the Honorary Fellowship of the College, Lord Nuffield confessed that as a boy he had wished to become a surgeon, and as a young man he came under the inspiring influence of Sir William Osler, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford. By the time of his death on 22 August 1963 Lord Nuffield had given, either directly or through various Trusts which he established, some £30 million, mainly to medical causes. He presented his portrait painted by John Wheatley ARA to the College in 1950.

Morris married in 1904 Elizabeth Maud Anstey who died in 1959; there were no children; he died on 22 August 1963, and a memorial service was held in St Paul's Cathedral on 10 October, which would have been his 86th birthday.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 22 August 1963 p 12 C-E with portrait; Lancet 1963, 2, 450; Brit med J 1963, 2, 511, 553 and at p 691 an appreciation by the Warden of the Nuffield College of Surgical Sciences; Ann Roy Coll Surg Engl 1963, 33, 255 with Wheatley's portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England