Roy Porter, the only child of a jeweller, was born in London on 31st December 1946. After obtaining a double first in history at Cambridge University (1968) he was granted a junior fellowship at Christ's College.
In 1972 he began work as director of studies in history at Churchill College, Cambridge. Five years later he was appointed dean of the college. His PhD thesis was published as The Making of Geology in 1977.
Porter moved to the Welcome Institute for the History of Medicine in 1979. Elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1994, he was also made an honorary fellow of both the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Porter wrote or edited over 100 books. This included English Society in the 18th Century (1990), Gibbon (1994), Disease, Medicine and Society in England, 1550-1860(1995), A Social History of Madness (1996), Greatest Benefit to Mankind (1999), London: A Social History (2000), Bodies Politic (2001), Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World (2000) and Madness (2002).
Roy Porter, who retired as professor of the social history of medicine at the Welcome Institute in 2001, died in Hastings in Sussex on 4th March, 2002.