Ralph Bathurst

(1620—1704) dean of Wells and college head

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Ralph Bathurst was born in Hothorpe, Northamptonshire, one of seventeen children of George Bathurst and Elisabeth Villiers. After receiving his primary schooling in the Free School at Coventry, Bathurst entered Gloucester Hall, Oxford on 10 October 1634 but within days migrated to Trinity College, whose President, Ralph Kettel, was his grandfather by marriage and whose members included his two elder brothers. His academic progress was routine. Elected scholar in June 1637, Bathurst graduated BA the following January, was made Fellow in June 1640 and proceeded MA 17 April 1641. Intending to make divinity his profession, Bathurst was ordained priest 2 March 1644. Nevertheless, his Royalist sympathies and the collapse of the king's cause – in whose service six of his brothers died – forced Bathurst to alter his design and proceed with medicine instead. He left Oxford for a while but returned in 1648 and, after submitting to the Parliamentary Visitors, was reinstated to his Trinity Fellowship and practised medicine in Oxford and its environs. During the first Anglo–Dutch war he was employed as assistant to Daniel Whistler, attending the wounded of the navy. Likewise, he was a close friend and collaborator of Thomas Willis, and was one of the prime movers of the famous Oxford Club – the members of which were later to be instrumental in founding the Royal Society. After the Restoration Bathurst abandoned medicine and was installed in 1663 as one of the king's chaplains. A year later he was appointed as President of Trinity College and in 1670 as Dean of Wales. He kept both positions until his death in 1704. Between 1673 and 1676 he also served as Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. After the Glorious Revolution Bathurst was offered the bishopric of Bristol, which he declined so that he might be able to complete his work of rebuilding Trinity College. Indeed, Bathurst's long tenure as President contributed to making the College one of the most affluent and popular among Oxford Colleges, while his determination and heavy financial contribution were instrumental in the major work of rebuilding Trinity.


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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