Kirsty Duncan

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Kirsty Duncan
Ph.D., MP
Kirsty Duncan St. John's Rally.jpg
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Etobicoke North
Assumed office
Preceded by Roy Cullen
Personal details
Born Kirsty Ellen Duncan
(1966-10-31) October 31, 1966 (age 48)
Etobicoke, Ontario
Political party Liberal
Website Official website

Kirsty Ellen Duncan (born October 31, 1966) is a Canadian politician and medical geographer from Ontario, Canada. Duncan is the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Liberal Party of Canada in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke North. She is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto and has published a book about her 1998 expedition to uncover the cause of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.


After graduating from Kipling Collegiate Institute in 1985 as an Ontario Scholar, Duncan studied Geography and Anthropology at the University of Toronto. She then entered graduate school at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and completed a Ph.D. in geography in 1992.[1]


From 1993 to 2000, Duncan taught meteorology, climatology, and climate change at the University of Windsor. In 1992, as she became increasingly aware of the increasing probability of a global flu crisis, she was led to investigate the cause of the similar 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, saying, "I was horrified we didn’t know what caused [Spanish flu], and also knew that if we could find fragments of the virus, we might be able to find a better flu vaccine".[2]

Though at the time she "knew nothing about influenza",[3] she began what she called a "six-month crash course in virology".[3] Eventually, she began searching for possible frozen samples of lung and brain tissue that might contain the virus. Her initial thoughts led her to think of Alaska,[3] as it contains large areas of permafrost, which would leave the viruses intact, but the search proved fruitless.

Eventually, after several years of searching, Duncan learned of seven miners who had died from the Spanish flu and were buried in the small town of Longyearbyen, Norway, an area that would contain permafrost. She then began assembling a team of scientists to accompany her. After several more years of preparation, which involved garnering various permissions to perform the exhumations, the ground survey began in 1998. However, the samples were not viable, as the bodies were not in the permafrost, and the expedition ultimately proved a disappointment.[2]

In 2003, Duncan wrote a book about her expedition, entitled Hunting the 1918 Flu: One Scientist's Search for a Killer Virus. Published by the University of Toronto Press, it details Duncan's process and the expedition itself. After the book's publication, Duncan began speaking about pandemics, which led her to begin teaching corporate social responsibility at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. In 2008, Duncan published a second book, Environment and Health: Protecting our Common Future.

Duncan is currently an adjunct professor teaching both medical geography at the University of Toronto and global environmental processes at Royal Roads University, and served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization that won the 2007 Nobel Prize with Al Gore.


In February 2008, Roy Cullen announced that he would not be running in the next federal election,[4] and Duncan was appointed as the next Liberal candidate. She was considered a "significant addition toward Dion's goal of fielding 103 women candidates in the next election."[5] She was elected in the 2008 general election and re-elected in the 2011 general election.

See also[edit]

  • Johan Hultin, a pathologist who also used frozen tissues to study the 1918 influenza virus


  1. ^ "Kirsty Duncan — Biography". Liberal Party of Canada. Archived from the original on 2008-04-24. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  2. ^ a b "Digging up the deadly past". The National (Martin Newland). 2008-09-25. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  3. ^ a b c Duncan, Kirsty (2003). Hunting the 1918 Flu: One Scientist's Search for a Killer Virus. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-8748-5. 
  4. ^ Shephard, Tamara (2008-09-04). "Election call expected Sunday". Toronto Community News (Metroland Media Group). Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  5. ^ Delacourt, Susan (2008-02-22). "Dion hand-picks Etobicoke candidate". Toronto Star (Jagoda Pike). Retrieved 2008-09-30. 

External links[edit]