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Sir Roger Bannister, MD: A Lifetime of Achievement, A Defining Moment

Ellis, Fay

doi: 10.1097/01.NT.0000403765.85279.68

Neurologist Sir Roger Bannister, MD, at 82, can look back on a long list of stellar achievements — in sports and medicine. On May 6, 1954, the 25-year-old medical student at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, England, broke the world track and field record for running the mile in less than four minutes. In January 1955, he earned the Sports Illustrated inaugural cover spot as the 1954 “Sportsman of the Year.”

Dr. Bannister later served as chairman of the Sports Council of Great Britain from 1971 to 1974, and president of the International Council for Sport and Physical Recreation from 1976 to 1983. All the while, he was making inroads in neurology, unraveling clinical syndromes involving the autonomic system. Dr. Bannister has served as chairman of the editorial board of the journal Clinical Autonomic Research; editor of Autonomic Failure (Oxford University Press), a textbook on clinical disorders of the autonomic nervous system; and as director of the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975.

But for all of Dr. Bannister's accomplishments, he has said in multiple interviews that his most crowning achievements emanate from his work in neurology. More recently, he told Sports Illustrated reporter David Epstein in a July 4 article that one of his most coveted honors of all time was the AAN Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to him in a special ceremony in Miami Beach in 2005 at the AAN annual meeting.

Referring to the glass obelisk award from the AAN, Dr. Bannister said: “This is more important, because it's about my life as a whole and medicine, which are more important to me than whatever I did as a runner until I was age 25.”

For more about Dr. Bannister's lifetime achievement award from the AAN, see

©2011 American Academy of Neurology