The Harveian Oration

The Harveian Oration was established in 1656 by William Harvey (1578–1657). Each year, the RCP continues the tradition by inviting a leading doctor or scientist to speak on issues relating to their field of work.

What we are doing

In 1656 Dr William Harvey FRCP funded an annual lecture and dinner once a year, the lecture to include a call to the fellows and members of the RCP to ‘search and Studdy out the secrett of Nature by way of experiment’. The Oration is delivered annually on, or as near as is practicable to, St Luke’s Day – 18 October, by a distinguished doctor or scientist.

The Harveian Oration's 2019 speaker was Professor Sir John Burn, Professor of Clinical Genetics at Newcastle University. In his lecture Prediction and prevention in the genomic era, Sir John outlines the history of genetic medicine, present challenges in using genetics to predict diseases and medical conditions and looks forward to a future where we will be able to use its full potential to prevent disease:

‘We stand on the edge of an era when genomic medicine will transform prediction and prevention to such an extent that we may lose the adjective, and simply call it ‘medicine’.’

Professor Sir John Burn obtained a first-class honours degree in human genetics and an MD with distinction from Newcastle University, where he has been professor of clinical genetics since 1991. He was appointed as a consultant specialist in Newcastle in 1984 and led the regional NHS Genetics Service for 20 years.

He helped to create the Centre for Life, which houses an education and science centre alongside the Institute of Genetic Medicine. He chairs Newcastle-based DNA device company QuantuMDx Ltd. He was knighted in 2010 and chosen as one of the first 20 ‘local heroes’ to have a brass plaque on Newcastle Quayside in 2014. He received the Living North award in 2015 for services to the North East 2000–2015. He is also treasurer and co-director of the international organisation Global Variome, which seeks to share knowledge of genetic variation for clinical benefit. Previous roles include president of the European Society of Human Genetics, chair of the British Society for Genetic Medicine, lead clinician of the Northern Strategic Health Authority and non-executive director at NHS England. Sir John has been chairman of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust since December 2017.