Roger Bannister Biography

Roger Bannister is an English doctor, academic and a former athlete. Check out this biography to get detailed information on his childhood, life, career, achievements and timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: March 23, 1929

Nationality: British

Famous: Athletes Neurologists

Age: 91 Years, 91 Year Old Males

Sun Sign: Aries

Also Known As: Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister

Born in: Harrow, England, United Kingdom

Famous as: Former British Athlete Who Ran The First Sub-Four-Minute Mile

Height: 6'2" (188 cm), 6'2" Males


Spouse/Ex-: Moyra Jacobsson

children: Charlotte Bannister-Parker, Clive Christopher Bannister, Erin Bannister Townsend, Thurstan Bannister

Diseases & Disabilities: Parkinson's Disease

More Facts

education: Exeter College, Oxford, Imperial College London, Merton College, Oxford, University of Oxford

awards: 1955 - Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year

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Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister, CBE is a former English athlete, academic and neurologist. He is famous as the athlete who ran the first sub-four-minute-mile. Bannister belonged to a middle-class family and was full of great aspirations since he was young. He was a natural at running and wanted to study at an elite university in England to become a doctor. He secured a scholarship to Oxford and it is there that he started to achieve professional training for running. After much training and when he felt like he was finally up to the challenge, Bannister participated in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki and set a British record in the 1500 meters, but failed to win the medal. This event crushed his spirits badly and he decided to quit running but later he made a new goal for himself - to become the first 4-minute miler. In 1954, during a meet between British AAA and Oxford University, he made history at the age of 25 by breaking the unbreakable record by completing the first three quarter-mile laps in less than three minutes and the last lap in less than a minute (3:59:4). Bannister is currently the Director of the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, London, and a trustee-delegate of St. Mary's Hospital Medical School.

Childhood & Early Life
  • At the age of 17, Bannister commenced his running career at Oxford in 1946. Until now, he had not been professionally trained in running but only three weekly half-hour training sessions revealed the hidden talent in him.
  • After getting proper training he was chosen as an Olympic 'possible' in 1948 but he refused as he felt that he was still not ready for the challenge. His eyes were set on the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.
  • In 1949, Bannister started to show great improvements in the 880 yard races and by now won many mile races. He also came in third at White City in 4:14:2 apparently without any special training.
  • He was becoming increasingly good at racing and in 1950 finished a relatively slow 4:13 mile with an impressive 57.5 last quarter. He came in third in the 800 m at the European Championships.
  • In a very challenging competition, he won a mile race in 1951 at the AAA Championships, White City, which 47,000 people witnessed live. The time set a meet record and he defeated Bill Nankeville in the course of action.
  • In 1952, Bannister ran 880 yards in 1:53.00, and then a 4:10.6 mile time-trial. Few days before the Olympic final, he ran a 3/4 mile time trial in 2:52.9 - he felt he was ready for the Olympics.
  • Bannister was not comfortable with the semifinals for the 1500 m at the Olympics as he knew that since he had not received deeper training regimens, he would be at a disadvantage. He finished fifth and qualified for the final.
  • Bannister finished fourth in 1952 Olympics and set a British record of 3:46.30 (3:46.0) but he considered it as his failure and contemplated giving up running altogether. But he recovered from the setback and set new goals for himself.
  • In 1953, he broke Sydney Wooderson's 1945 British record at Oxford and ran 4:03:6 and realized that he could achieve a four-minute mile challenge. By this time, he was pursuing medical studies at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School.
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  • In 1954, during a meet between British AAA and Oxford University, Bannister made history by breaking record by completing the first three quarter-mile laps in less than three minutes and the last lap in less than a minute (3:59:4).
  • Within a month, the Australian runner John Landy broke his record, but in the British Empire Games, Vancouver (The Mile of the Century), both runners beat the four-minute time, but Bannister came in first at 3:58.8 to Landy's 3:59.6.
  • In the same year, Bannister was awarded the Silver Pears Trophy, presented yearly for the stupendous British accomplishment in any field and won the European title in the 1500-meter before retiring from competition.
  • After retirement from athletics, Bannister finished his medical studies and for the next two decades involved himself deeply with a career in research and with clinical practice as a neurologist. Later, he devoted himself to research alone.
  • He remained in touch with the sports by serving as the Chairman of the Sports Council of Great Britain (from 1971 to 1974), and as President of the International Council for Sport and Physical Recreation (from 1976 to 1983).
  • Presently, Bannister is Director of the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, London, and a trustee-delegate of St. Mary's Hospital Medical School. He is also Chairman of the Editorial Board of 'Clinical Autonomic Research' and is the editor of 'Autonomic Failure'.
Awards & Achievements
  • Bannister has earned accolades for his achievements, like: Silver Pears Trophy, Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award, Honorary Degrees by University of Sheffield and University of Bath. He was knighted for his services as the Chairman of Sport England.
  • Bannister has an equal number of achievements in medical science and athletics. But it is for his athletic triumphs that he is remembered more, especially when he made history by breaking the record of four-minute mile challenge in 1954.
  • His most prominent role in academic medicine is in the field of autonomic failure, an area of neurology focusing on diseases caused by particular automatic responses of the nervous system not taking place.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • Bannister is married to Lady Moyra Bannister and they live together in a flat in North Oxford.
  • This former British athlete carried the Olympic flame at the site of his memorable feat, in the stadium now named after him, in 2012.
  • St Mary's Hospital (London), Imperial College School of Medicine has named a lecture theatre after Bannister.
  • He once famously said - 'The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win'.

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