Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Steevens, Richard

STEEVENS, RICHARD (1653–1710), Irish physician, and Grizell his sister (1653–1746), were the twin children of John Steevens, an English royalist clergyman who settled in Ireland in the middle of the seventeenth century, and was rector of Athlone from 1660 to 1682. Richard Steevens received his education at the Latin school in Athlone and subsequently at Trinity College, Dublin, where he obtained a scholarship in 1674, graduated B.A. in 1675, and M.A. in 1678. Being intended by his father for the church, he took deacon's orders, but proceeded no further in the ministry, and devoted himself to the medical profession. In 1687 he received the degree of M.D. from his university, and thenceforward practised as a physician in Dublin, where he amassed a large fortune. He was a fellow of the Irish College of Physicians, and in 1710 was elected president of that body. He died before the close of his year of office, on 15 Dec. 1710.

By his will Steevens bequeathed the bulk of his property to his sister Grizell for her life, and directed that upon her death it should vest in trustees to be applied in building, and subsequently in maintaining, a hospital in Dublin, ‘for maintaining and curing from time to time such sick and wounded persons whose distempers and wounds are curable.’ Grizell Steevens, being ‘desirous that the said charitable bequest of her dear brother should begin to take effect in her lifetime,’ surrendered her estate to the trustees in 1717, reserving only 100l. a year, out of a rental of 600l., together with apartments in the hospital when built. She also gave 2,000l. towards the cost of building. The hospital, thus founded, and since known as Steevens's hospital, was completed in 1733 at a cost of 16,000l., and was the first public hospital established in Dublin, where it is still one of the foremost institutions of its kind. Dean Swift was one of its earliest governors, and ‘Stella’ (Esther Johnson) in her will bequeathed 1,000l. towards the maintenance of a chaplain of the hospital, so long as the church of Ireland should remain established. Another benefactor was John Sterne [q. v.], bishop of Clogher. Grizell Steevens survived till 18 March 1746. By her will she bequeathed the residue of her property to the governors of the hospital. Her remains are interred in the hospital chapel. Portraits of Steevens and his sister are in the board-room of the institution.

[Short History of Steevens's Hospital, by Samuel Croker King, 1785; History of Steevens's Hospital, by Cheyne Brady, 1865; Athlone in the Seventeenth Century, by Rev. G. T. Stokes, D.D.; Journal of the Royal Society of Irish Antiquarians; Todd's Graduates of Dublin University.]

C. L. F.