John Stearne, founder of the College of Physicians of Ireland, was born in 1624 at Ardbraccan in the house of his granduncle Archbishop Ussher.
John Stearne attended Trinity College Dublin before going to Cambridge where he graduated in 1642. He also attended Oxford before returning to Ireland in 1651. He was admitted as a fellow to Trinity College. He was appointed registrar of Trinity College in 1652 and he also began to practise as a physician in Dublin. He took over Trinity Hall, a student residence on Dames Street, and renovated it at his own cost. He established a fraternity of physicians at the residence. In 1656 he was appointed professor of Hebrew at the college. He resigned from the college in 1659 just as Charles II was about to be restored to the throne. Returning to the college in 1660 Stearne was appointed public professor of laws. In 1662 Stearne was given permission for a fraternity of physicians and made professor of medicine for life. Charles II granted a charter establishing the College of Physicians of Ireland in August 1667 with Stearne as named president for life. As a doctor Stearne was an advocate of the use of physical therapies including the use of cold water, tobacco (chiefly by chewing), opium and the smell of freshly dug earth. Stearne died in 1669 aged 44 and was buried in the then chapel of Trinity College. His son, John Stearne, became rector of Clonmacduff and later Killary in the diocese of Meath before becoming Dean of St. Patrick’s cathedral and bishop of Clogher.
A royal charter was given to the College of Physician in 1692 and given the title ‘Royal’ in 1890.