WHILE it was his sporting landmark that earned him a place in the history books, Sir Roger Bannister’s contribution to neurology was what he always considered his greatest achievement.

The running legend was a medical student at St Mary’s Medical School in London when he broke the four-minute mile and following his retirement from athletics in 1954 he pursued a career as a clinician and researcher, ultimately returning to Oxford to take up the post of Master of Pembroke College in 1985.

Professor Jonathan Weber, acting dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London, which is now joined with St Mary’s, said he first met Sir Roger in 1982, when he was a registrar at St Mary’s dealing with the first AIDS cases.

He said: “Many of our early patients had unusual neurological presentations, and Roger was fascinated by this new disease and extra-ordinarily helpful and approachable to a very junior colleague.”

He said that although the sport star left St Mary’s, where he was a consultant neurologist, for Oxford he kept a close association with the hospital.

Sir Roger chaired the St Mary’s Development Trust from 1993-2004, contributing greatly to the refurbishment of the St Mary’s Medical School building following the creation of the Imperial College School of Medicine in 1997.

Professor Weber said: "The culmination of this refurbishment, in 2004, was to invite Sir Roger to open the new Sir Roger Bannister Lecture Theatre, embellished by a portrait, the photograph of his record-breaking mile and, in its own secure cabinet, one of the stop-watches used in this most iconic event.

"As a faculty, we mourn this towering figure of 20th century sport and medicine, and celebrate his lifetime of commitment to St Mary’s.”

Sir Roger's other achievements include becoming the Director of the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London and editor of Autonomic Failure, a textbook on clinical disorders of the autonomic nervous system.

These decades of neurological training, clinical work and research made him an expert on Parkinson’s many years before he was himself diagnosed in 2011.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail in 2014, Sir Roger said he recognised there was ‘an irony’ in him developing the very disease he had so extensively studied.

Professor Kevin Talbot, head of the division of Clinical Neurology at Oxford University, paid tribute to his commitment to medicine throughout his life, saying: “He remained a prominent figure in the neurology field following his retirement – he was always involved in neurological charities, and was always unfailingly generous with both his time and advice.

"Throughout his life, he remained a strong supporter of neurological research.”

“His influence will be strongly felt for a long time, he was a combination of someone who was well-respected, and very well-liked.”