1915 Trinity College gold medal sets record price

A gold award medal from Ireland’s Trinity College presented to pioneering biochemist William Robert Fearon in 1915 sold for a record hammer price of £6,500 (about $10,800 Cdn.) at Noonans Mayfair’s Oct. 17 historical medals sale.

Sold by an Irish collector, the medal, which graced the auction’s catalogue, had been expected to fetch £2,400-£3,000 as Lot 223.

“This gold award medal by West & Son of 102 & 103 Grafton Street, Dublin, was decorated with a three-quarter-length bust of bust of Elizabeth I,” said Peter Preston-Morley, the associate director of Noonans’ coin department. “It attracted interest from all over the world and achieved a record price for any medal from Trinity College Dublin. In an original maroon gilt-blocked fitted case, the medal was in mint condition and was purchased by a collector in the Far East.”

The medal, which had a high estimate of just $5,000, is shown on the cover of the Oct. 17 auction catalogue.

William Robert Fearon was born in 1892 on Holles Street in Dublin as the son of Presbyterian minister William Fearon and his wife Nannie. The younger Fearon was educated at St Andrew’s College, also in Dublin, from 1908-11 followed by Trinity College from 1911-17. At the latter school, he received a bachelor’s degree in natural science – at this time earning the gold medal – followed by the Harvey research prize from the Royal College of Physicians in 1918, and the Carmichael prize from the Royal College of Surgeons.

Fearon went on to work as a researcher for the British food ministry and the food investigations board from 1917-19. He was then a Mackinnon research student of the Royal Society at Emmanuel College in Cambridge from 1919-21 and was elected a Fellow of Trinity College in 1921. He. held the chair of biochemistry – founded for him there in 1943 – until his death in 1959. During that latter portion of his life, he represented the Dublin University constituency in Seanad Éireann and sat on many government committees.

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