Edward Mellanby

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Edward Mellanby
Edward Mellanby 1943.jpg
Edward Mellanby in 1943
Born(1884-04-08)8 April 1884
Died30 January 1955(1955-01-30) (aged 70)
Alma materEmmanuel College, Cambridge
SpouseMay Tweedy (married 1914)
Scientific career

Sir Edward Mellanby GBE KCB FRS FRCP[1] (8 April 1884 – 30 January 1955)[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] was a British biochemist and nutritionist who discovered vitamin D and its role in preventing rickets in 1919.[10]


Mellanby was born in West Hartlepool, the son of a shipyard owner, and educated at Barnard Castle School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he studied physiology.


After working as a research student from 1905 to 1907, Mellanby studied medicine at St. Thomas's Hospital in London, and in 1913 became a medical doctor. He served as a lecturer at King's College for Women in London from 1913 to 1920, during which time he was asked to investigate the cause of rickets. He discovered that feeding caged dogs on a diet of porridge induced rickets, which could then be cured with cod liver oil and concluded that rickets was caused by a dietary factor. It was later discovered that the actual cause of rickets is lack of vitamin D due to lack of sunlight which can be prevented or remedied by ingesting food rich in vitamin D, such as cod liver oil.

He worked on the detrimental effect of foods containing significant phytic acid, particularly cereals.[11]

In 1914 he married May Tweedy, a lecturer at Bedford College (London) who would also carry out research into nutrition and dental disease.[12]

In 1920 he was appointed professor of pharmacology at the University of Sheffield, and consultant physician at the Royal Infirmary in that city. He then served as the secretary of the Medical Research Council from 1933 to 1949.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1925.[1][13][14] He was awarded their Royal Medal in 1932 and their Buchanan Medal in 1947.

In 1932, Mellanby was awarded the Cameron Prize for Therapeutics of the University of Edinburgh. He delivered the Croonian Lecture to the Royal College of Physicians in 1933 and the Croonian lecture to the Royal Society in 1943, both on the subject of diet.

He was knighted (KCB) in the 1937 Coronation Honours[15] and made GBE in the 1948 New Year Honours.[16] He was appointed an Honorary Physician to the King in 1937.[17]

Selected publications[edit]

Publications include Nutrition and Disease – the Interaction of Clinical and Experimental Work (Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd, 1934). In the work, he writes extensively on vitamin deficiency. He delivered the Harveian Oration to the Royal College of Physicians in 1938.


  1. ^ a b c Dale, H. H. (1955). "Edward Mellanby 1884-1955". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 1: 192–222. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1955.0015. JSTOR 769252.
  2. ^ Mellanby, E. (1930). "A Lecture on THE RELATION OF DIET TO HEALTH AND DISEASE: SOME RECENT INVESTIGATIONS". British Medical Journal. 1 (3614): 677–681. doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3614.677. PMC 2312877. PMID 20775383.
  3. ^ Hawgood, B. J. (2010). "Sir Edward Mellanby (1884-1955) GBE KCB FRCP FRS: Nutrition scientist and medical research mandarin". Journal of Medical Biography. 18 (3): 150–157. doi:10.1258/jmb.2010.010020. PMID 20798415. S2CID 25696394.
  4. ^ Platt, B. S. (1956). "Sir Edward Mellanby, G.B.E., K.C.B., M.D., F.R.C.P., F.R.S. (1884-1955): The Man, Research Worker, and Statesman". Annual Review of Biochemistry. 25: 1–28. doi:10.1146/annurev.bi.25.070156.000245. PMID 13363303.
  5. ^ Platt, B. S. (1956). "Sir Edward Mellanby, 8 April 1884 – 30 January 1955". The British Journal of Nutrition. 10 (3): 177–181. doi:10.1079/BJN19560030. PMID 13355929.
  6. ^ Harington, C. (1956). "Edward Mellanby". British Medical Bulletin. 12 (1): 3–4. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.bmb.a069509. PMID 13284292.
  7. ^ Platt, B. S. (1955). "Sir Edward Mellanby, G.B.E., K.C.B., F.R.S". Nature. 175 (4456): 530–532. Bibcode:1955Natur.175..530P. doi:10.1038/175530a0. PMID 14370159.
  8. ^ Dale, H. H. (1955). "Edward Mellanby 1884-1955". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 1: 192–222. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1955.0015. JSTOR 769252.
  9. ^ "Edward Mellanby". Lancet. 268 (6859): 359–360. 1955. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(55)90098-2. PMID 13234383.
  10. ^ Mellanby, E. (1919). "An Experimental Investigation on Rickets". Nutrition Reviews. 34 (11): 338–340. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.1976.tb05815.x. PMID 794773.
  11. ^ Harrison, DC; Mellanby, E (October 1939). "Phytic acid and the rickets-producing action of cereals". Biochem. J. 33 (10): 1660–1680.1. doi:10.1042/bj0331660. PMC 1264631. PMID 16747083.
  12. ^ Catharine M. C. Haines, ed. (2001). International Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary to 1950. ABC-CLIO. pp. 209–10. ISBN 978-1-57607-090-1. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 2 September 2010.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "Edward Mellanby". Lancet. 268 (6858): 309–310. 1955. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(55)90151-3. PMID 13234364.
  15. ^ "No. 34396". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 May 1937. pp. 3073–3106.
  16. ^ "No. 38161". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1947. p. 14.
  17. ^ "No. 34463". The London Gazette. 14 December 1937.
Academic offices
Preceded by Fullerian Professor of Physiology
Succeeded by