Almroth Wright

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Almroth Wright
Almroth Wright c1900.jpg
Sir Almroth E. Wright c.1900
Born (1861-08-10)10 August 1861
Middleton Tyas, Yorkshire, England.
Died 30 April 1947(1947-04-30) (aged 85)
Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire, England
Residence Australia, France, Germany, England.
Nationality British
Fields bacteriology
Institutions Netley Hospital
St Mary's Hospital, London
Alma mater Trinity College, Dublin
Known for vaccination through the use of autogenous vaccines
Notable awards Buchanan Medal (1917)
Fellow of the Royal Society[1]

Sir Almroth Edward Wright, FRS[1] KBE, CB (10 August 1861 – 30 April 1947) was a British bacteriologist and immunologist.[2]

He is notable for developing a system of anti-typhoid fever inoculation, recognizing early on that antibiotics would create resistant bacteria and being a strong advocate for preventive medicine.


Wright was born at Middleton Tyas, near Richmond, North Yorkshire into a family of mixed Anglo-Irish and Swedish descent.[3] He was the son of Reverend Charles Henry Hamilton Wright, deacon of Middleton Tyas, who later served in Belfast, Dublin and Liverpool and managed the Protestant Reformation Society.[4] His mother, Ebba Almroth, was the daughter of Nils Wilhelm Almroth (sv), Governor of the Swedish Royal Mint in Stockholm.[5] His junior brother Charles Theodore Hagberg Wright became librarian of the London Library.

In 1882 he graduated at Trinity College, Dublin with first class honours in modern literature and won a gold medal in modern languages and litarature.[6]:2 Simultaneously he took medicine courses and in 1883 graduated in medicine.[1][6]:3 In the late 19th century, Wright worked with the armed forces of Britain to develop vaccines and promote immunisation.

In 1902 Wright started a research department at St Mary's Hospital Medical School in London. He developed a system of anti-typhoid fever inoculation and a method of measuring protective substances (opsonin) in human blood. Citing the example of the Second Boer War, during which many soldiers died from easily preventable diseases, Wright convinced the armed forces that 10 million vaccines for the troops in northern France should be produced during World War I. Among the many bacteriologists who followed in Wright's footsteps at St Mary's was Sir Alexander Fleming, who in turn later discovered lysozyme and penicillin. Wright was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in May 1906.[7]

Wright warned early on that antibiotics would create resistant bacteria,[6]:130 something that has proven an increasing danger. He made his thoughts on preventive medicine influential, stressing preventive measures. Wright's ideas have been re-asserted recently—50 years after his death—by modern researchers in articles in such periodicals as Scientific American. He also argued that microorganisms are vehicles of disease but not its cause, a theory that earned him the nickname "Almroth Wrong" from his opponents.[8]

He also proposed that logic be introduced as a part of medical training, but his idea was never adopted. Wright also pointed out that Pasteur and Fleming, although both excellent researchers, had not actually managed to find cures for the diseases which they had sought cures, but instead had stumbled upon cures for totally unrelated diseases.

Wright was a strong proponent of the Ptomaine theory for the cause of Scurvy.[9] The theory was that poorly preserved meats contained alkaloids that were poisonous to humans when consumed. This theory was prevalent when Robert Falcon Scott planned his fateful expedition to the Antarctic in 1911. In 1932, the true cause of the disease was determined to be the deficiency from the diet of a particular nutrient, now called Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid, Scorbic meaning Scurvy).

There is a ward named after him at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London.

Women's suffrage[edit]

Wright was strongly opposed to women's suffrage. He argued that women's brains were innately different from men's and were not constituted to deal with social and public issues. His arguments were most fully expounded in his book The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage (1913). In the book, Wright also vigorously opposes the professional development of women.[10]

Bernard Shaw[edit]

Wright was a friend of George Bernard Shaw, whom he significantly influenced. He was immortalised as Sir Colenso Ridgeon in the play The Doctor's Dilemma written in 1906, which arose from conversations between Shaw and Wright. Shaw credits Wright as the source of his information on medical science: "It will be evident to all experts that my play could not have been written but for the work done by Sir Almroth Wright on the theory and practice of securing immunization from bacterial diseases by the inoculation of vaccines made of their own bacteria."[11]

Shaw also portrays him in his playlet How These Doctors Love One Another! and uses his theory of bacterial mutation in Too True to Be Good.[8] Shaw, who campaigned for women's suffrage, strongly disagreed with Wright about women's brains, and dismissed his views on the subject as absurd.


Wright had been honoured for his deeds a total of 29 times in his lifetime - a knighthood, 5 honorary doctorates, 5 honorary orders, 6 fellowship (2 honorary), 4 prizes, 4 memberships and 3 medals (Buchanan Medal, Fothergill Gold Medal and a special medal "for the best medical work in connection with the war").[12]:282


Wright's work could be split up into the following three phases

  • Early phase (1891-1910) - over 20 medical journal publications, lectures for students and other scientific works
    • Upon a new septic (1891)
    • On the conditions which determine the distribution of the coagulation (1891)
    • A new method of blood transfusion (1891)
    • Grocers' research scholarship lectures (1891)
    • Lecture on tissue- or cell-fibrinogen (1892)
    • On the leucocytes of peptone and other varieties of liquid extravascular blood (1893)
    • On Haffkine's method of vaccination against Asiatic cholera (1893, coauthored with D. Bruce)
    • Remarks on methods of increasing and diminishing the coagulability of the blood (1894)
    • On the association of serous haemorrhages (1896)
    • A suggestion as to the possible cause of the corona observed in certain after images (1897)
    • On the application of the serum test to the differential diagnosis of typhoid and Malta fever (1897)
    • Remarks on vaccination against typhoid fever (1897, coauthored with D. Semple)
    • On the action exerted upon the tubercle bacillus by human blood fluids (1904, coauthored with Stewart Rankin Douglas)
    • A short treatise on anti-typhoid inoculation (1904)
    • On the possibility of determining the presence or absence of tubercular infection (1906, coauthored with S. T. Reid)
    • On spontaneous phagocytosis (1906, coauthored with S. T. Reid)
    • Studies on immunisation and their application to the diagnosis and treatment of bacterial infections (1909)
    • Vaccine therapy—its administration, value, and limitations (1910)
    • Introduction to vaccine therapy (1920)
  • War phases (1914–18 and 1941–45) - mostly works about wounds, wound infections and new perspectives on the topic
    • Wound infections and some new methods (1915)
    • Conditions which govern the growth of the bacillus of "Gas Gangrene" (1917)
    • Pathology and Treatment of War Wounds (1942)
    • Researches in Clinical Physiology (1943)
    • Studies on Immunization (2 vol., 1943–44)
  • Philosophy phase (1918-1941 and 1945–47) - more or less philosophic works, including thoughts on logic, equality, science and scientific methods
  • Hanbooks
    • Principles of microscopy : being a handbook to the microscope (1906)
    • Technique of the teat and capillary glass tube (1912)


  • Walker, N M (2007), "Edward Almroth Wright", Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps (Mar 2007) 153 (1): 16–7, doi:10.1136/jramc-153-01-05, PMID 17575871 
  • Stone, Marvin J (2007), "The reserves of life: William Osler versus Almroth Wright", Journal of medical biography, 15 Suppl 1: 28–31, doi:10.1258/j.jmb.2007.s-1-06-06, PMID 17356738 
  • Diggins, Francis (2002), "Who was...Almroth Wright?", Biologist (London, England) (Dec 2002) 49 (6): 280–2, PMID 12486306 
  • Matthews, J Rosser (2002), "Almroth Wright, vaccine therapy, and British biometrics: disciplinary expertise versus statistical objectivity", Clio medica (Amsterdam, Netherlands) 67: 125–47, PMID 12215201 
  • Worboys, M (1999), "Almroth Wright at Netley: modern medicine and the military in Britain, 1892–1902", Clio medica (Amsterdam, Netherlands) 55: 77–97, PMID 10631532 
  • Baron, J H (1997), "Scurvy, Lancaster, Lind, Scott and Almroth Wright", Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (Jul 1997) 90 (7): 415, PMC 1296402, PMID 9290433 
  • Meynell, E W (1996), "Some account of the British military hospitals of World War I at Etaples, in the orbit of Sir Almroth Wright", Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps (Feb 1996) 142 (1): 43–7, doi:10.1136/jramc-142-01-09, PMID 8667330 
  • Matthews, J R (1995), "Major Greenwood versus Almroth Wright: contrasting visions of "scientific" medicine in Edwardian Britain", Bulletin of the history of medicine 69 (1): 30–43, PMID 7711458 
  • Turk, J L (1994), "Almroth Wright—phagocytosis and opsonization", Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (Oct 1994) 87 (10): 576–7, PMC 1294842, PMID 7966100 
  • Gillespie, W (1991), "Paul Ehrlich and Almroth Wright", West of England medical journal (Dec 1991) 106 (4): 107, 118, PMID 1820079 
  • Allison, V D (1974), "Personal recollections of Sir Almroth Wright and Sir Alexander Fleming", The Ulster medical journal 43 (2): 89–98, PMC 2385475, PMID 4612919 
  • Hatcher, J (1972), "Sir Almroth Wright; pioneer of humanised cows' milk", Midwives chronicle (Nov 1972) 86 (18): 356, PMID 4485442 
  • Fish, W; Cope, Z; Gray, A C (1961), "Sir Almroth WRIGHT (1861–1947)", Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps (Jul 1961) 107: 130–6, PMID 13699916 
  • Colebrook, Leonard (1953), "Almroth Wright; pioneer in immunology", British medical journal (19 September 1953) 2 (4837): 635–640, doi:10.1136/bmj.2.4837.635, PMC 2029492, PMID 13082064 
  • The Plato of Praed street: the life and times of Almroth Wright. M.S.Dunnill. RSM Press 2000

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Colebrook, L. (1948). "Almroth Edward Wright. 1861-1947". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 6 (17): 297–226. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1948.0032. JSTOR 768924. 
  2. ^ Herrick, C. E. J. (2001). "Wright, Almroth Edward". Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. doi:10.1038/npg.els.0002962. ISBN 0470016175. 
  3. ^ Michael Worboys, ‘Wright, Sir Almroth Edward (1861–1947)’, "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37032. 
  4. ^ "Dr. C. H. H. Wright (obituary)". The Times. 22 March 1909. Retrieved 9 November 2015. 
  5. ^ Sir Charles Hagberg Wright (obituary). The Times, 7 March 1940.
  6. ^ a b c Cope, Zachary (1966). Almroth Wright: Founder of modern vaccine-therapy. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd. 
  7. ^ "List of Fellows of the Royal Society 1660 – 2007" (PDF). Royal Society: Library and Information Services. 2007. p. 390. Retrieved 9 November 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Sally Peters (2003). Commentary: Bernard Shaw’s dilemma: marked by mortality. International Journal of Epidemiology, International Epidemiological Association. 
  9. ^ J. H. Baron (July 1997). "Scurvy, Lancaster, Lind, Scott and Almroth Wright" 90. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. p. 415. 
  10. ^ Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (1979) [1915]. Herland (various formats). Introduction by Ann J. Lane (First ed.). New York: Pantheon Books. pp. 130 and 142. ISBN 0-394-50388-0. Retrieved 16 October 2012. I see now clearly enough why a certain kind of man, like Sir Almroth Wright, resents the professional development of women.... 'Sexless, epicene, undeveloped neuters!' he [Terry O'Nicholson] went on bitterly. He sounded like Sir Almwroth Wright. 
  11. ^ Violet M. Broad & C. Lewis Broad, Dictionary to the Plays and Novels of Bernard Shaw, A. & C. Black, London, 1929, p.41.
  12. ^ Colebrook, Leonard (1954). Almroth Wright : Proactive doctor and thinker. London: William Heinemann. 

External links[edit]