Chris Whitty

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Chris Whitty

S960 - Chris Whitty - Chief Scientific Adviser (cropped).png
Chief Medical Officer for England
Assumed office
2 October 2019
DeputyJonathan Van-Tam
Jenny Harries (until 2021)
Aidan Fowler
Preceded byDame Sally Davies
Personal details
Christopher John MacRae Whitty

(1966-04-21) 21 April 1966 (age 55)
Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England
Alma mater
ProfessionPhysician and epidemiologist

Christopher John MacRae Whitty CB FRCP FFPH FMedSci (born 21 April 1966) is a British physician and epidemiologist who serves as the Chief Medical Officer for England (CMO), Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government, Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) to the Department of Health and Social Care, Head of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Gresham Professor of Physic.[1][2]

Since March 2020, Whitty has played a key role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom, alongside Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.[3]

Early life[edit]

Christopher John MacRae Whitty was born in Gloucester on 21 April 1966, the first of four sons born to Kenneth and Susannah Whitty.[4][1] [5] His father was a British Council officer, who was posted to various countries including Nigeria, where the family lived in Kaduna, and Malawi. While Deputy Director of the British Council in Athens, Kenneth Whitty was killed by militants from the Revolutionary Organisation of Socialist Muslims, a terrorist organisation, in 1984, when Whitty was 17.[6] His mother was a teacher.[5][7][8] His maternal uncle Sir Christopher MacRae was also a diplomat,[9] and his grandmother Grace Summerhayes was a pioneering obstetrician in Africa,[4] who set up the first maternity hospital in Ghana in 1928.[6]

Whitty was sent back to the UK for his schooling,[4] where he attended Windlesham House School in Pulborough, West Sussex, and Malvern College, Worcestershire. He then studied at Pembroke College, Oxford (BA in Physiology, DSc in medical science), Wolfson College (BM BCh in Medicine, 1991), London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (DTM&H in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 1996; MSc in Epidemiology, 1996), Northumbria University (LLM in Medical Law, 2005), Heriot-Watt University (MBA in Business Administration, 2010), and the Open University (DipEcon in Economics).[1][5]


Whitty is a practising National Health Service (NHS) consultant physician at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, and Gresham Professor of Physic at Gresham College, a post dating back to 1597.[10] Until becoming CMO he was Professor of Public and International Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) where he was also Director of the Malaria Centre.[11] He worked as a physician and researcher into infectious diseases in the UK, Africa and Asia. In 2008, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the LSHTM £31 million for malaria research in Africa. At the time, Whitty was the principal investigator for the ACT Consortium, which conducted the research programme.[5][12]


Department for International Development (London office) (far right)

From 2009 to 2015, he was Chief Scientific Adviser and director of research for the Department for International Development (DFID).[2][5][13] He led the Research and Evidence Division, which worked on health, agriculture, climate change, energy, infrastructure, economic and governance research. During this time, with co-authors Neil Ferguson and Jeremy Farrar, he wrote an article in Nature titled "Infectious disease: Tough choices to reduce Ebola transmission",[14] explaining the UK government's response to Ebola in support of the government of Sierra Leone, which he took a leading role in designing, including the proposal to build and support centres where people could self-isolate voluntarily if they suspected that they could have the disease.[15]

Since 2016, he has been Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care, responsible for the department's research and development work, including the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).[1] His term in this role will end in August 2021.[16]

From 2017 to 2018, he was also interim Government Chief Scientific Adviser and head of the science and engineering profession in government.[1] During this period Novichok, the military nerve agent, was responsible for the 2018 Salisbury poisonings, and Whitty chaired the government SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group in Emergencies) and advised COBR for the crisis.[1][5]

He was appointed Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England in 2019.[1]

2020 coronavirus outbreak[edit]

Whitty and two of his deputies, Jenny Harries and Jonathan Van-Tam, took high-profile roles during the COVID-19 outbreak.[17][18] This included appearing – often with prime minister Boris Johnson and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance – in televised news conferences, and giving evidence to parliamentary bodies.[5][3] From 19 March, Whitty appeared in public information adverts on national television, explaining the government's social-distancing strategy to reduce the spread of the virus during the pandemic.[3][19]

On 27 March, he was reported to be self-isolating owing to symptoms consistent with COVID-19 after Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock had tested positive for the virus.[20] On 6 April, he had reportedly returned to work having recovered from the symptoms of the virus.[21] In July, he told the Lords Science and Technology Committee that elimination of the disease in the UK would be very difficult, a view that was contested by other scientists including members of the Independent SAGE group.[22]

At a televised briefing on 12 October where the Prime Minister introduced three tiers of localised restrictions, Whitty said he was not confident that the measures in the highest tier would be "enough to get on top of it".[23][24] Whitty and Valance presented updated data and forecasts at a televised briefing on 31 October, where the Prime Minister announced stricter measures for the whole of England.[25]

During the outbreak, BBC health editor Hugh Pym called him "the official who will probably have the greatest impact on our everyday lives of any individual policymaker in modern times".[3] The Guardian's sketch writer, John Crace, described him as "the Geek-in-Chief, whom everyone now regards as the country's de facto prime minister". At the same time, he was compared to James Niven, the Scottish physician known for reducing the death rate of influenza during the 1918 flu pandemic in Manchester.[26]

It was reported that during the Christmas weekend of 2020, Whitty was spotted treating coronavirus patients in London. It was said he "worked the shifts in his capacity as a practising doctor [as] a consultant physician at University College London Hospitals Trust... on the north London hospital's respiratory ward over the weekend and bank holiday Monday".[27]

Awards and honours[edit]

Whitty was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 2015 New Year Honours.[28] He is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.[10]

Public lectures outlining his views on tackling current challenges in medicine and public health include over 20 Gresham lectures including on infectious diseases, public health, cancer, cardiovascular diseases [29] and the 2017 Harveian Oration and the Milroy Lecture at the Royal College of Physicians.[5][10][11]

Personal life[edit]

Whitty has been referred to by those familiar with him as a private person. He is single and has no children.[3][5]

Selected publications[edit]

  • "Infectious disease: Tough choices to reduce Ebola transmission". Nature. Vol. 515, Issue 7526 (13 November 2014). doi:10.1038/515192a (joint author)
  • "Harveian Oration 2017: Triumphs and challenges in a world shaped by medicine". Clinical Medicine. Vol. 17, No. 6 (December 2017), pp. 537–544. doi:10.7861/clinmedicine.17-6-537, PMC PMC6297683, PMID 29196355


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Whitty, Prof. Christopher John Macrae". Who's Who. 1 December 2018. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U250932. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Chief Medical Officer and DHSC Chief Scientific Adviser: Professor Chris Whitty". Department of Health and Social Care. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e Pym, Hugh (17 March 2020). "Chris Whitty: The man with our lives in his hands". BBC News. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Neville, Sarah (13 March 2020). "Chris Whitty, disease expert leading the UK's coronavirus response". Financial Times. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sample, Ian; O'Carroll, Lisa (4 March 2020). "Prof Chris Whitty: the expert we need in the coronavirus crisis". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  6. ^ a b Sample, Ian; Stewart, Heather (22 March 2021). "'A class act': Chris Whitty, the calm authority amid the Covid crisis". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  7. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (9 June 2000). "Diplomatic mission". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  8. ^ "Gunman Kills British Diplomat". The Glasgow Herald. 29 March 1984. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  9. ^ "Quiet family funeral for shot diplomat". The Guardian. 7 April 1984. p. 2. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  10. ^ a b c "Professor Chris Whitty". Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  11. ^ a b PHE. "Public Health Matters: Chris Whitty". Public Health England. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  12. ^ "London School of Hygiene celebrates new $59 million Gates funding". EurekAlert!. 6 March 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  13. ^ Waldman, Thomas; Barakat, Sultan; Varisco, Andrea (2016). "Annexe: Mapping research and policy". Understanding Influence: The Use of Statebuilding Research in British Policy. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 218. ISBN 978-1-472-42757-1.
  14. ^ Whitty, Christopher J. M.; Farrar, Jeremy; Ferguson, Neil; Edmunds, W. John; Piot, Peter; Leach, Melissa; Davies, Sally C. (2014). "Infectious disease: Tough choices to reduce Ebola transmission". Nature. 515 (7526): 192–194. Bibcode:2014Natur.515..192W. doi:10.1038/515192a. PMID 25391946.
  15. ^ "Infectious disease: Tough choices to reduce Ebola transmission | Ebola Response Anthropology Platform". Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  16. ^ "New Chief Scientific Adviser and NIHR lead announced". NIHR. 19 April 2021. Retrieved 1 May 2021.
  17. ^ "Meet Jenny Harries, the doctor talking sense in the coronavirus pandemic". The Daily Telegraph. 23 March 2020. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  18. ^ "Coronavirus: UK trialling existing and new medicines". BBC News. 3 April 2020. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  19. ^ Heffer, Greg (18 March 2020). "Coronavirus: Government to air first TV adverts with advice for Britons". Sky News. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  20. ^ "Coronavirus: Chief medical officer Chris Whitty self-isolates with symptons". Sky News. Sky. 27 March 2020.
  21. ^ Jones, Amy (6 April 2020). "Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty returns to work after a week in self-isolation with coronavirus symptoms". The Daily Telegraph.
  22. ^ Devlin, Kate (24 July 2020). "Scientists hit out at Chris Whitty for claiming UK unlikely to eliminate coronavirus". The Independent. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  23. ^ "Whitty 'not confident' new measures will be enough". BBC News (Video extract). 12 October 2020. Retrieved 13 October 2020.
  24. ^ Devlin, Kate (12 October 2020). "Chris Whitty 'not confident' that three-tier lockdown restrictions will work". The Independent. Retrieved 13 October 2020.
  25. ^ "Six graphs that led to the new Covid lockdown for England". ITV News. 31 October 2020. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  26. ^ Pidd, Helen (27 March 2020). "First 'Geek-in-Chief': shy Scot who paved way for Prof Chris Whitty". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  27. ^ "England's top medic Chris Whitty treated Covid patients over Christmas weekend". The Independent. 29 December 2020. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  28. ^ "New Year's Honours lists 2015" (PDF). Government of the United Kingdom: Cabinet Office and Foreign Office. 8 January 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  29. ^ "Professor Chris Whitty". Gresham's College. Retrieved 28 June 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Dame Sally Davies
Chief Medical Officer for England
2019 to present