Hugh Pennington

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Hugh Pennington
Born (1938-04-19) 19 April 1938 (age 83)[citation needed]
Alma materSt Thomas's Hospital Medical School
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Aberdeen, University of Wisconsin–Madison, St Thomas's Hospital Medical School

Thomas Hugh Pennington, CBE, FRCPath, FRCP (Edin), FMedSci, FRSE (born 19 April 1938 in Edgware, Middlesex) is emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.[1] Outside academia, he is best known as the chair of the Pennington Group enquiry into the Scottish Escherichia coli outbreak of 1996[2] and as Chairman of the Public Inquiry into the 2005 Outbreak of E. coli O157 in South Wales.

Early life[edit]

Pennington was educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School in Lancashire, England. Pennington obtained his MBBS degree in 1962, and his PhD in 1967, both from St Thomas's Hospital Medical School, which became part of United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals in 1982, and has been known as King's College London School of Medicine and Dentistry since 2005.

Academic career[edit]

He spent a year at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before moving to the Glasgow Institute of Virology in 1969, where he researched vaccinia, smallpox and other viruses. He was appointed Chair of Bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen in 1979, where he remained until his retirement in 2003.[1] His research focused on improved bacteria typing, or "fingerprinting", methods, and led to new methods for the investigation of virulence and antibiotic resistance in a number of important pathogens including Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, Neisseria meningitidis, and Escherichia coli O157:H7. He also wrote on the history of science and medicine such as the introduction of antiseptic surgery to Aberdeen by Alexander Ogston using a Lister 'steam spray producer'.[3] He was dean of the medical school between 1987 and 1992.[1] Pennington was also awarded a higher doctorate, i.e. DSc.

He retired in 2003 after being a professor of bacteriology for 23 years at the University of Aberdeen.[4]

From 2003-6 he was President of the Society for General Microbiology. He is a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering.[5]

Pennington Group enquiry[edit]

In late November 1996, an Escherichia coli outbreak in the town of Wishaw, central Scotland prompted the Scottish Office to establish an expert group, chaired by Pennington. The Pennington Group convened between December 1996 and March 1997. Another case of E. coli infection occurred in Tayside in January 1997 and the group was tasked with investigating the additional outbreak.[6]

Subsequent public work[edit]

Following his chairmanship of the E. coli enquiry, Pennington has worked for the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments as an expert on microbiology and food safety, and has also appeared in British media as an expert. He was a member of the Scottish Food Advisory Committee,[1] part of the Food Standards Agency, an agency he recommended the government create.[7] He was a founder member of the World Food Programme Technical Advisory Group.[1] He is the former Vice Chair of the Broadcasting Council for Scotland, which advises the BBC.[8]

He has criticised the UK[9] and German[10] governments for their handling of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and the NHS for their handling of MRSA.[11] He chaired a 2005 enquiry into a Welsh E. coli outbreak.[12] The 2005 Outbreak of E. coli O157 in South Wales Public Inquiry report was published in March 2009.

In 2003, Pennington published When Food Kills,[13] a popular science book on the topic of BSE, E. coli and public food safety.

He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to microbiology and food hygiene.[14]

Personal life[edit]

He married Carolyn Beattie in 1966 in Maidstone, Kent. They have two daughters.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Renowned experts retire from the University of Aberdeen" (Press release). University of Aberdeen. 7 October 2003. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  2. ^ The Pennington Group. (8 April 1997). "Annex 1". Report on the circumstances leading to the 1996 outbreak of infection with E.coli 0157 in Central Scotland, the implications for food safety and the lessons to be learned. Scottish Office. ISBN 978-0-11-495851-0. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  3. ^ Pennington, TH (1988). "The Lister steam spray in Aberdeen". Scottish Medical Journal. 33 (1): 217–218. doi:10.1177/003693308803300115. PMID 3291113.
  4. ^ "Scotland Herald". 7 October 2003. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  5. ^ "Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering". Archived from the original on 28 August 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  6. ^ The Pennington Group. (8 April 1997). "Section 1.2". Report on the circumstances leading to the 1996 outbreak of infection with E.coli 0157 in Central Scotland, the implications for food safety and the lessons to be learned. Scottish Office. ISBN 978-0-11-495851-0. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  7. ^ "Health Food agency delays 'could cost lives'". BBC News. 24 January 1999. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  8. ^ "The Work of the Broadcasting Council 2005/2006". BBC Scotland. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  9. ^ "Ministers blamed for food crises". BBC News. 13 June 2001. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  10. ^ "Britain's BSE lessons 'ignored'". BBC News. 25 November 2000. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  11. ^ Hugh Pennington (15 December 2005). "Don't pick your nose". London Review of Books. 27 (24). Retrieved 16 November 2007.
  12. ^ "'No stone unturned' E.coli pledge". BBC News. 27 June 2006. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  13. ^ Pennington, T. H. (2003). When food kills: BSE, E. coli, and disaster science. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-852517-2.
  14. ^ "No. 60534". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 2013. p. 8.

External links[edit]