Sadleir, Franc (Francis) (1775–1851), academic and provost of TCD, was born on 3 May 1775, second son among five children of Thomas Sadleir (1753–1815), barrister, and his first wife, Rebecca Woodward of Cloughprior, Co. Tipperary. With his second wife, Florence Atkinson, Thomas Sadleir had a further four sons and four daughters. The family was wealthy, with addresses in Castletown, Co. Tipperary, and Seapark, Dublin. The Sadleirs had been a prominent Lancashire family since the early sixteenth century; Col. Thomas Sadleir (qv) (d. 1680) had come to Ireland as adjutant-general under Cromwell (qv) and was later a prominent politician.
Sadleir entered TCD on 28 October 1790, and never left, but rose steadily to the highest position in the college. A scholar in 1794, he graduated BA (1795), MA (1805), and both BD and DD (1813); he became a fellow in 1805, was Donnellan lecturer (1815, 1816, 1822, 1827–32), Archbishop King's lecturer (1822), librarian (1821–37), bursar (1824–33), professor of Hebrew (1822–5), Erasmus Smith professor of mathematics (1825–36), regius professor of Greek (1833–7), and provost (1837–51).
Sadleir advanced more by reason of astute self-promotion and administrative skill than through academic merit. He was not a distinguished scholar, and his mathematical ability in particular was in question. For four years the board of the college sought his resignation from the Erasmus Smith chair, and finally had to buy him out for £1,000. Previous to this Sadleir had been simultaneously drawing the salaries of senior fellow, bursar, librarian, and professor of mathematics, causing the Dublin University Magazine to term him ‘a sinecurist and pluralist in everything’ (vii, 347). This tory magazine was admittedly politically opposed to Sadleir, who was an active and committed whig, an advocate of emancipation, and a supporter of the queen's colleges in Ireland. He was one of the first commissioners for administering the funds for the education of the poor in 1831. His steady promotion from 1805 is the more marked in that it was achieved during years when his party was in opposition and the large majority of the college's fellows were tories. He was fortunate that the liberals were in power when the sudden death of Bartholomew Lloyd (qv) in November 1837 left the provostship open. His appointment was criticised within the college but, if not quite as visionary nor as reforming as his predecessor, Sadleir was an excellent administrator who consolidated progress and modernised the university. In the fourteen years of his provostship, the celibacy statute was repealed, the engineering school was founded, surgery was developed as a distinct subject in the medical school, more academic staff with more varied accomplishments were appointed, and steps were taken to bring an element of choice into the pass course for undergraduates.
Sadleir published Sermons and lectures preached in the chapel of Trinity College, Dublin (3 vols, 1821–4) and National schools for Ireland, defended in a letter to Dr Thorpe (1835). He was still provost when he died in his daughter's house at Castleknock Glebe on 14 December 1851, and was buried in the vaults of the college. He was survived by four sons and three daughters, and predeceased by his wife (m. 17 July 1801), Letitia Abigail, daughter of William Grave of Ballynagor, King's Co. (Offaly).
Of his portrait by J. H. Nelson in the provost's house in Trinity, the college's historians wrote: ‘the tightly pursed lips and the shrewd calculating eye betray indeed the whig outlook’ (McDowell & Webb, 155).