Lives of the fellows

William John Edward Jessop

b.30 July 1902 d.11 June 1980
BA(1925) MSc(1927) MB BCh BAO Dublin(1928) MD(1935) DSc Ife Nigeria(1978) MRCPI(1940) FRCPI(1944) MRCP(1964) FRCP(1968) Hon FACP(1972)

Born in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, ‘Jerry’ Jessop was the eldest of the three sons of John Brabason Jessop, a farmer. His mother Mary Jane, was a daughter of William Anderson, another local farmer.

Jerry was educated at the Ranelagh School, Athlone and at Mountjoy School, Dublin. Entering Trinity College Dublin in 1920 he became a foundation scholar of the House, and graduated in 1925 with a first class moderatorship in experimental science. Two years later he completed his MSc in biochemistry, before graduating in medicine.

In 1929, at the age of 27, he became professor of physiology in the schools of surgery in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. He held this post until 1952, when he became the first professor of social medicine in the University of Dublin. He was the dean of the school of physic from 1959 until his compulsory retirement in 1972 on reaching the age of seventy.

He then accepted an appointment as the first professor of chemical pathology in the new medical school at the Nigerian University of Ife. He was soon elected vice-dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, and continued to be active in the development of the school until his final illness forced his second retirement in 1978.

A supreme joiner and organizer, Jerry Jessop joined so many scientific societies and bodies that the mere listing of them would be tedious. They included: the Physiological Society, the Biochemical Society, the Nutrition Society, the Society for Social Medicine, the Association for the Study of Medical Education, and the British Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled. Of all these he was an active member, often an office bearer.

A fellow of Trinity College Dublin, and a member of the Royal Irish Academy, in 1972 he was elected president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. He was a member of the GMC and of the Irish Registration Council for many years.

An original member of the Irish Medical Research Council, founded in 1957, he was its honorary secretary (and chief executive, unpaid) from 1952 until his retirement in 1973.

His own scientific work related to nutrition in several aspects. In 1946 he organized a dietary survey which revealed the extent of calcium and iron depletion causing rickets and anaemia, due to the policy of using 100% extraction flour; also the dental caries survey, which led to the fluoridation of Irish water supplies in 1952. Again, the Boston-Ireland heart study was an innovation in its day.

His extra-medical activities included the councils of the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland and of the Statistical and Social Enquiry Society of Ireland.

Up to his last illness he was hyperkinetic in mind and body. Anxiety and insomnia seemed unknown to him. He loved company and was an inveterate luncheon host, when politics or fund raising could often be introduced into the social enjoyment.

He travelled widely and frequently, representing a remarkable variety of causes and institutions. In Dublin, and in Nigeria, he was an active and expert gardener. He collected glass and silver-and interesting people.

In 1930 he married Kathleen, daughter of Thomas Condell. They had three daughters and one son, John, a Fellow of the College.

DM Mitchell

[, 1980, 281, 316; Lancet, 1980, 2, 46, 158]

(Volume VII, page 301)

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