Lives of the fellows

Percy Cyril Claude Garnham

b.15 Jan 1901 d.25 Dec 1994
CMG(1964) MB BS Lond(1923) MRCS LRCP(1923) DPH(1924) MD(1928) DSc(1951) FRS(1964) Hon MD Bordeaux(1964) Hon FRCP Edin(1966) FRCP(1967) Hon MD Montpellier(1980)

Percy Cyril Claude Garnham - or ‘Cyril’ as he was always known - was professor of protozoology at the University of London. The death of his father, Percy Claude Garnham, of the Royal Naval Division, at Gallipoli in 1915 left the young Garnham under the sole charge of his mother, who was an accomplished violinist. He was educated at Paradise School and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London.

In 1925 he joined the Colonial Medical Service and was posted to Kenya where he and his wife arrived with lots of curtain material and only the second grand piano to come to East Africa! Besides being the only doctor in a huge area of the country, he found the time to establish the division of insect born diseases (Kenya), and to undertake a great deal of research on parasitic diseases which were, and still are, such a menace to Africa. At that time plague was rampant in the area and yellow fever a constant threat. Sleeping sickness devastated the tsetse fly-infested areas and relapsing fever, onchorcerciasis (river blindness) and numerous other tropical diseases were widespread.

His research work, while conducted to the highest theoretical standards, brought real practical benefit to the populations of the areas in which he lived. One example of his practical approach to research was the development of a method for the eradication of Simulium naevei which spreads river blindness in Kenya, interrupting entirely the transmission of this crippling disease.

With H E Shortt he discovered the last great secret of the life cycle of the malaria parasite in man - the exo-erythrocytic cycle - and thus enabled a more rational approach to the complete treatment of the disease and the possible prevention of the clinical illness.

In 1947 he returned to London to the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene where he subsequently became head of the department of parasitology and professor of medical protozoology at the University of London. He continued his insatiable research work and interests, continuing to achieve great successes in his field. In 1968 he became emeritus professor and was appointed senior research fellow of the Imperial College of Science and Technology. In 1971 he was made a visiting professor of the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, and then spent two years as a Fogarthy international scholar of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Washington, USA.

During this period he became president of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (from 1967 to 1969), president of the European Federation of Parasitologists (1971) and president of the Second International Congress of Protozoology.

He married Esther Long Price in 1924 and, during a long happy marriage, they had two sons and four daughters.

His philosophy can be summarized briefly; love of nature and people; the importance of absolute truth; the idea that if something is worth doing it is worth doing well; and a commitment to making full use of all the talents and facilities with which one has been endowed.

John C Garnham

[Brit.med.J., 1995,310,1064; The Independent, 12 Jan 1995; The Daily Telegraph, 11 Jan 1995]

(Volume X, page 158)

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