Peter Snow (doctor)

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Peter Snow
Born 1935
Died 28 February 2006(2006-02-28)
Nationality  New Zealand
Occupation physician

Dr Peter Snow (1935 – 28 February 2006) was a general practitioner who served the New Zealand rural community of Tapanui for over 30 years. He was president of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs from 1998–99 and received their highest honour, Distinguished Fellowship, in 2001.[1] He was a member of the Otago Hospital Board and its successor, the District Health Board.[1]


As a boy Peter Grahame Snow attended Auckland Grammar School, graduating with the class of 1948.[2]

While training in medicine he intended to become a surgeon, but was unable to do so because he wore glasses to correct his eyesight, so he took up general practice in Tapanui.


In 1984 he was presented with a number of patients with a prolonged exertional 'flu-like illness, but presenting no diagnosable condition.[2] While some people thought they were no different from commonly found "tired all the time" (TATT) cases, Dr Snow was convinced that they were indeed sick and proceeded to investigate. Many were sheep farmers who previously had a perfect record of health. Observing a similarity between the symptoms of stock suffering from selenium deficiency and these patients, he was the first doctor in New Zealand to identify the disease which turned out to be an outbreak of myalgic encephalomyelitis, now classed as chronic fatigue syndrome.[1][3] Due to, often disparaging, publicity surrounding these discoveries and a study into them by Peter Snow, Marion Poore, and Charlotte Paul, the illness came to be known in New Zealand as "Tapanui flu" after the town of the same name in West Otago.[3]

Dr Snow also became concerned at the number of farmers injured in farm accidents, particularly those involving motorcycles, and made recommendations for improving farm safety. He campaigned unsuccessfully to prevent the closure of the Tapanui hospital, at which he was on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.[1][4]

Retirement, death and legacy[edit]

After more than thirty years in Tapanui, Peter Snow and his wife retired to Lake Hayes. Peter Snow died on 28 February 2006.[2] A memorial to Dr Snow, comprising a moon rock and plaque was unveiled in the main street of Tapanui on Saturday 8 August 2009. The moon rock was chosen because of Dr Snows belief that a meteor had collided with the moon in 1766 and dispersed debris across West Otago.[4][5]


  1. ^ a b c d Fox, Jonathan (2009-09-02). "New Zealand loses a fine GP". Scoop. Retrieved 27 August 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c "Peter Snow obituary" (PDF). Annual Report 2006. Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. p. 37. Retrieved 3 March 2006. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b Snow, Peter (December 2002). "Reminiscences of the chronic fatigue syndrome" (PDF). New Zealand Family Physician. The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. Retrieved 27 August 2009. [dead link]
  4. ^ a b Matangi, Tuangane (2009-08-12). "Moon rock memorial for doctor unveiled". Otago Daily Times. Allied Press Limited. Retrieved 27 August 2009. 
  5. ^ Conway, Glenn (2009-08-10). "Tapanui District remembers a GP of significance". Otago Daily Times. Allied Press Limited. Retrieved 27 August 2009.