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Sir Robert McCarrison, MA, MD, DSc, LLD, FRCP (15 March 1878 – 18 May 1960) was a Northern Ireland physician and nutritionist, who was made a Companion of the Indian Empire (C.I.E.) in 1923, received a knighthood in July 1933, and was appointed as Honourable Physician to the King in 1935.
McCarrison was born in Portadown, in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. He qualified in Medicine at Queen's College, Belfast in 1900. He joined the Indian Medical Service and was posted as Medical Officer to Indian troops guarding the mountainous Northern Frontiers. He was promoted to Captain in January 1904, to Major in July 1912, Lieutenant-Colonel in January 1918, Colonel from 1929, and to Major-General in July 1933. He retired from the Indian Medical Service on 19 August 1935. McCarrison's research in India on the cause of goiter won widespread recognition and in 1913 he was promoted to do research. In 1928 he became Director of Nutritional Research in India, where he remained until his retirement from the Indian Medical Service in 1935, when he returned to England, settling at Oxford.
Pioneer in nutrition research
McCarrison is credited with being the first to experimentally demonstrate the effect of deficient dietaries upon animal tissues and organs. He also carried out human experiments aimed at identifying the cause of goitre, and included himself as one of the experimental subjects. Much of McCarrison's work was pioneering. His 1921 book Studies in Deficiency Disease was considered notable at the time, being published at a time when knowledge of vitamins and their role in nutrition was crystallizing. McCarrison himself noted that prior to publication of his studies on the pathogenesis of deficiency disease "no systemic post-mortem examination of animals fed on food deficient in vitamin B had ever been made; the histopathological effects of such food on the various systems of the body were wholly unknown; above all, its effects on the gastro-intestinal tract and the organs of digestion and assimilation, and the significance of these effects for clinical medicine, were wholly unsuspected".
At age 23, McCarrison went to India, where he spent 30 years on nutritional problems. He attained the rank of major-general in the Indian Medical Service, and founded the Nutritional Research Laboratories in Coonoor. After retiring from the Indian Medical Service in 1935, he gave a series of Cantor lectures at the Royal Society of Arts, about the influence of diet on health. This comprised three lectures delivered on successive Mondays at the Society. The first lecture focused on the processes of nutrition; the second, on food essentials and their relationship to bodily structure and function; the third on disease prevention and physique improvement by attention to diet. The lectures were subsequently published in book form under the title Nutrition and Health, and at the time of the third edition in 1962, were still not seen as "dated", with the advances of the preceding 25 years largely filling the details of the principles previously recognised by McCarrison.
"McCarrison's work on goitre, cretinism, and the thyroid, begun in the western Himalayas in 1902, generated scores of scientific publications during the following thirty-five years", While McCarrison's work is often considered the start of serious studies of goitre and cretinism in South Asia, it was preceded by that of Commissioner David Scott at Rangur in north-east India around 1825, and was investigated by Mountford Bramley at Kathmandu in 1832.
In 1918, McCarrison founded the Beri-Beri Enquiry Unit in a single room laboratory at the Pasteur Institute in Conoor, India. He was invalided to Britain from 1920–1922, and in 1923 the enquiry was axed on financial grounds. It was restored two years later as the Deficiency Disease Inquiry, which McCarrison headed from 1925-1929. Around 1928-29, this developed further into the Nutrition Research Laboratories (NRL. Renamed the National Institute of Nutrition in 1969), with McCarrison as its first Director, until his retirement in 1935. In 1926, as head of the Deficiency Diseases Inquiry, McCarrison submitted written and oral evidence on malnutrition to the Royal Commission on Agriculture in India. The primary objective of McCarrison's submission was to indicate the significance of malnutrition as a "as a cause of physical inefficiency and ill-health among the massess in India"; the relationship between nutrition and agriculture; and "the necessity for closer co-ordination of nutritional, medical, veterinary and agricultural research" in India. McCarrison's submission had impact. "A decade later, when the Commission's chairman, Lord Linlithgow, became Viceroy of India he showed a personal interest in nutrition, pushing it to the top of the research agenda. In 1936 a Nutrition Advisory Committee was established and roughly a tenth of IRFA's annual grants went to fund nutrition research at Coonoor and Calcutta".
Retirement from India
In 1906 he married Helen Stella Johnston, to whom he was still married at the time of his death.
- The National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad, India, continues to pay tribute to is origins in 1928 under McCarrison.
- McCarrison is grouped, along with Sir Albert Howard and Richard St. Barbe Baker, as one of three progenitors of the organic agriculture movement.
In 1966, a group of doctors, dentists and veterinarians, interested in the promotion of nutrition and health, founded the McCarrison Society in honour of his efforts, with a Scottish group established in 1981 due to both travel logistics and differing needs in the Scottish population.
The Society aims "to assemble scientific knowledge on nutrition and health that is free from economic and political pressures with the object of securing the physical and mental health of future generations". The Society meetings sometimes raise questions with elusive answers, with speakers presenting material based on scanty, often anectdotal data, inviting criticism that it is "a gathering of cranks". However, "one answer to that criticism is that speakers at MCarrison meetings tend to be rather well qualified. But the main point is that the society has a way of asking questions about the environment - what are we doing to it and what it is doing to us - that are of profound importance".
The Society's website summarises McCarrison's work thus:
His researches were extensive; they included work on the newly discovered vitamins and on the contrasting disease patterns in the Indian subcontinent. He demonstrated how many common diseases increasingly prevalent in industrial societies were caused simply by diets made defective by extensive food processing, often with the use of chemical additives. He deplored the universal consumption in Britain and America of refined white flour, instead of halite flour, and the substitution of canned, preserved and artificially sweetened products for fresh natural food.McCarrison's work was widely published in the medical press. He was honoured for his discoveries, but completely ignored by government and the medical profession at a time when medical thought was absorbed in the study of disease rather than on prevention and the promotion of health.
The following is a selection of works published by McCarrison.[a] To avoid duplication, this does not include works cited, which are to be found in the References section.
- McCarrison, Robert (1906), "Observations on Endemic Goitre in the Chitral and Gilgit Valleys", Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, 89: 437–470, PMC , PMID 20897060. Retrieved 11 August 2010
- . (1909), "Observations on Endemic Cretinism in the Chitral and Gilgit Valleys", Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2 (Medical Section): 1–36, PMC , PMID 19973738
- . (13 March 1909), "A Summary of Further Researches on the Etiology of Endemic Goitre", Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 81 (545): 31, doi:10.1098/rspb.1909.0003, JSTOR 80344
- . (April 1909), "Further Researches on the Etiology of Endemic Goitre", QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, 2 (3): 279–288, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (1 July 1909), "Observations on the Amoebae in the Intestines of Persons Suffering from Goitre in Gilgit", Journal of Cell Science, s2-53 (212): 723–736 download page
- . (28 February 1911), "A Summary of Further Experimental Researches on the Etiology of Endemic Goitre. (Second series.)", Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 83 (564): 335–337, doi:10.1098/rspb.1911.0016
- . (23 January 1912), "The Vaccine Treatment of Simple Goitre", Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 5 (Medical Section): 37–52, PMC , PMID 19976042
- . (1914), "Nervous Cretinism", Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 7 (Section for the Study of Disease in Children): 157–164, PMC , PMID 19978295. Retrieved 12 August 2010
- . (1 August 1916), "On the Experimental Production of Congenital Goitre", Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 89 (616): 322–327, doi:10.1098/rspb.1916.0018, JSTOR 80845
- . (1917), The Thyroid Gland in Health and Disease, London: Bailliere, Tindall & Cox, retrieved 10 August 2010 (Full text at Internet Archive).
- . (15 February 1919), "The Pathogenesis of Deficiency Disease", British Medical Journal, 1 (3033): 177–178, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3033.177, PMC , PMID 20769368, retrieved 10 August 2010 (Online registration to view articles is free).
- . (12 July 1919), "The Influence of Deficiency of Accessory Food Factors on the Intesting", British Medical Journal, 2 (3054): 36–39, doi:10.1136/bmj.2.3054.36, PMC , PMID 20769544, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (16 August 1919), "The Effects of a Scorbutic Diet on the Adrenal Glands", BMJ, 2 (3059): 200, doi:10.1136/bmj.2.3059.200, PMC , PMID 20769580, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (1 January 1920), "The Genesis of Oedema in Beriberi", Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 91 (636): 103–110, doi:10.1098/rspb.1920.0003, JSTOR 80789
- . (21 February 1920), "The Effects of Deficient Dietaries on Monkeys", British Medical Journal, 1 (3086): 249–253, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3086.249, PMC , PMID 20769796, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (19 June 1920), "Deficiency Disease: With Special Reference to Gastro-intestinal Disorders", British Medical Journal, A British Medical Association Lecture Delivered to the South Wales and Monmouthshire Branch, 1 (3103): 822, 822–2–826, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3103.822, PMC
- . (14 August 1920), "Dietetic Deficiency And Endocrine Activity, With Special Reference To Deficiency Oedemas", British Medical Journal, 2 (3111): 236–239, JSTOR 20341532
- . (1921), Studies in Deficiency Disease, London: Henry Frowde and Hodder & Stoughton (1945 photo-lithographic reproduction by Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research. Full text at Internet Archive).
- . (1 November 1921), "Observations on the Effects of Fat Excess on the Growth and Metamorphosis of Tadpoles", Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 92 (647): 295–303, doi:10.1098/rspb.1921.0026, JSTOR 81036
- . (7 January 1922), "Faulty Food in Relation to Gastro-intestinal Disorder", Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 78 (1): 1–8, doi:10.1001/jama.1922.02640540007001, retrieved 10 August 2010 (Pay-per-view access).
- . (4 February 1922), "Fats in Relation to the Genesis of Goitre", British Medical Journal, 1 (3188): 178–181, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3188.178, PMC , PMID 20770581, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (22 April 1922), "Simple Goitre", British Medical Journal, 1 (3199): 636–637, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3199.636, PMC , PMID 20770690, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (20 January 1923), "The Function of the Adrenal Glands and its Relation to Concentration of Hydrogen Ions", British Medical Journal, 1 (3238): 101–102, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3238.101, PMC , PMID 20770975, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (4 August 1923), "The Relation of Faulty Nutrition to the Development of the Epithelioma Contagion of Fowls", British Medical Journal, 2 (3266): 172–172–1, 173–174, doi:10.1136/bmj.2.3266.172, PMC , PMID 20771246, retrieved 11 August 2010
- . (1924), "Rice in Relation to Beri-beri in India", Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 17 (Section of Tropical Diseases and Parasitology): 65–82, PMC , PMID 19984111
- . (8 March 1924), "Rice in Relation to Beri-beri in India", British Medical Journal, 1 (3297): 414–420, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3297.414, retrieved 11 August 2010
- . (29 March 1924), "The Relation of Manure to the Nutritive and Vitamin Value of Certain Grain", British Medical Journal, 1 (3300): 567–569, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3300.567, PMC , PMID 20771526, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (1925), "Discussion on Non-specific Disturbances of Health Due to Vitamin Deficiency", Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 18 (General Reports Section): 3–6, PMC , PMID 19984363. Retrieved 12 August 2010
- . (13 June 1925), "A British Medical Association Lecture On Some Problems Of Thyroid Disease: Delivered before the Ulster Branch on April 30th", British Medical Journal, 1 (3363): 1065–1069, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3363.1065, PMC , PMID 20772078, retrieved 11 August 2010 JUSTOR link
- . (23 October 1926), "A Good Diet and a Bad One: An Experimental Contrast", British Medical Journal, 2 (3433): 724–2, 730–732, doi:10.1136/bmj.2.3433.724, PMC , PMID 20772829, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (15 January 1927), "An Experiment in Goitre Prevention: Being the Further History of Goitre at the Lawrence Royal Military School, Sanawar, Punjab, India", British Medical Journal, 1 (3445): 94–95, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3445.94, PMC , retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (16 April 1927), "The Experimental Production of Stone in the Bladder", British Medical Journal, 1 (3458): 717–718, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3458.717, PMC , PMID 20773132, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (31 May 1930), "A Goitre Survey in Albino Rats", British Medical Journal, 1 (3621): 989–992, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3621.989, PMC , PMID 20775488, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (6 June 1931), "A Lecture on Some Surgical Aspects of Faulty Nutrition", British Medical Journal, 1 (3674): 966–971, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3674.966, PMC , PMID 20776211, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (13 June 1931), "A Lecture on The Causation of Stone in India", British Medical Journal, 1 (3675): 1009–1015, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3675.1009, PMC , retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (14 October 1933), "A Paper on Food and Goitre", British Medical Journal, 2 (3797): 671–675, doi:10.1136/bmj.2.3797.671, PMC , PMID 20777816, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (26 September 1936), "Nutrition in Health and Disease", British Medical Journal, 2 (3951): 611–615, doi:10.1136/bmj.2.3951.611, PMC , PMID 20780124, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (2 January 1937), "The Problem of Endemic Goitre", British Medical Journal, 1 (3965): 29–31, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3965.29, PMC , PMID 20780395, retrieved 10 August 2010
- . (7 August 1937), "Nutritional Needs in Pregnancy", British Medical Journal, 2 (3996): 256–257, doi:10.1136/bmj.2.3996.256, PMC , PMID 20780822, retrieved 10 August 2010
- McCarrison, Major-General Sir Robert (15 June 1940), "Medical Aspects of the Use of Food", British Medical Journal, 1 (4145): 984–987, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.4145.984, PMC , PMID 20783158, retrieved 11 August 2010}
- McCarrison, R (11 July 1942), "Social Medicine (letter to editor)", British Medical Journal, 2 (4253): 51, doi:10.1136/bmj.2.4253.51, ISSN 0007-1447, PMC
- McCarrison, Sir Robert (1947), "Introductory Remarks on Nutrition To-day", International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 1 (2): 69–72, doi:10.3109/09637484709143130
- . (1953), Nutrition and Health: Being the Cantor Lectures to the Royal Society of Arts in 1936, together with two earlier Essays, London: Faber and Faber[d]
The following works discuss aspects of the life and work of Robert McCarrison.
- Hardy, Anne (January 1995), "Beriberi, Vitamin B1, and World Food Policy, 1925-1970", Medical History, 39 (1): 61–77, doi:10.1017/s0025727300059482, PMC , PMID 7877405
- William Lockeretz, ed. (2007), Organic Farming: An International History, Oxfordshire, UK & Cambridge, Massachusetts: CAB International (CABI), ISBN 978-0-85199-833-6, retrieved 10 August 2010 ebook ISBN 978-1-84593-289-3
- Gardner, Professor A.D (11 June 1960), "Obituary: Sir Robert McCarrison (letter)", British Medical Journal, 1 (5188): 1818–1819, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.5188.1818-b, PMC [b]
- "Medical News", British Medical Journal, (Notification of pending lecture at Middlesex Hospital on Tuesday 27 June), 1 (4093): 1266, 17 June 1939, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.4093.1266, PMC
- Akhtar, Rais; Learmonth, A.T.A, eds. (1986), Geographical Aspects of Health and Disease in India, New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, retrieved 12 August 2010
- N.C.P (4 June 1960), "Obituary: Sir Robert McCarrison (letter)", British Medical Journal, 1 (5187): 1743–1744, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.5187.1743-b, PMC . Retrieved 11 August 2010.[c]
- Penrose, N.C (3 February 1951), "Health, Diet, Soil", British Medical Journal, 1( (4700): 250–251, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.4700.250-c, PMC retrieved 11 August 2010[c]
- Ramalingaswami, V (1953), "The problem of goitre prevention in India", Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 9 (2): 275–281, PMC , PMID 13094515
- Sinclair, H.M, ed. (1953), The work of Sir Robert McCarrison, London: Faber and Faber
- "Ulster Medical Society", British Medical Journal, (Comment on McCarrison's visit and lecture of 30 April), 1 (3359): 944, 16 May 1925, PMC
- Vernon, James (June 2005), "The Ethics of Hunger and the Assembly of Society: The Techno-Politics of the School Meal in Modern Britain", The American Historical Review, 110 (3), retrieved 13 August 2010
- Wrench, Dr Guy T (1938), The Wheel of Health: A Study of the Hunza People and the Keys to Health, 2009 reprint, Review Press, ISBN 978-0-9802976-6-9, retrieved 12 August 2010
a. ^ The bulk of McCarrison's work appears to have been published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), although he did publish in other journals, such as JAMA and The Lancet, amongst others. Some publications are also found in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. Free access to publications BMJ and the Proceedings is to be found in the external links section. Some of McCarrison's publications listed are from those journals, but links were not located at time of listing. They should however, be available at these websites, along with other publications by or about McCarrison from those two journals which have not been located or listed.
b. ^ This letter is by the "nominal overseer" of McCarrison's last salaried post. It contains particularly insightful commentary on the contribution of McCarrison at a time of significant change in the existing university and medical institutions of the UK.
c. ^ The author of this obituary letter on McCarrison is identified only as "N.C.P.", which are also the initials of N.C. Penrose, author of a 1951 letter defending the legacy of McCarrison's earlier works.
d. ^ A book review of the 1953 edition is cited in this article, hence the listing. However, there have been other publications of this book both before and since. A publication from 1944 (Nutrition and National Health) is to be found via web searches comprising the same lecture and essay collection. And publications in 1961 and 1982, under Nutrition and Health, are also to be found. A new edition was produced in 2010, and may found at Lulu, a Print on Demand / Self-Publishing service.
- "Obituary: Sir ROBERT McCARRISON, C.I.E., M.D., D.Sc. L.L.D., F.R.C.P", British Medical Journal, 1 (5186): 1663–1664, 28 May 1960, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.5186.1663, PMC , PMID 13856887
- "Companion of the Indian Empire (C.I.E.) conferred", Supplement to the London Gazette (No.32830): 3947, 2 June 1923, retrieved 10 August 2010 (See p.3946 for list heading)
- "Knighthood conferred July 1933", The London Gazette (No.33960): 4716, 14 July 1933, retrieved 10 August 2010
- "McCarrison appointment as Honourable Physician to the King", The London Gazette (No.34226): 7671, 3 December 1935, retrieved 10 August 2010
- "Robert McCarrison: Lieutenant to Captain on 29 January 1904", The London Gazette (No. 27679): 3356, 24 May 1904, retrieved 10 August 2010
- "Indian Medical Service: Robert McCarrison, MD: Captain to Major on 29 July 1912", The London Gazette (No. 28639): 6377, 27 August 1912, retrieved 10 August 2010
- "Maj. R. McCarrison listed for Lieutenant-Colonel", Supplement to the London Gazette (No. 30450): 11, 1 January 1918, retrieved 10 August 2010 (List heading: "To be Brevet Lieutenant-Colonerl" is on p.10)
- "Indian R. McCarrison to be Colonel from 5th November 1929", The London Gazette (No. 33723): 3657, 5 June 1931, retrieved 10 August 2010
- Indian Medical Service: Col. Sir R. McCarrison, Kt., C.I.E., M.D., F.R.C.P., K.H.P., to be Maj.-Gen., 19th July 1933 (No. 34024), 16 February 1934, p. 1079, retrieved 10 August 2010
- Indian Medical Service: Maj.-Gen. Sir R. McCarrison retires, 19th Aug. 1935 (No. 34194), 30 August 1935, p. 5536, retrieved 10 August 2010
- "Surgery and Diet", British Medical Journal, 1 (3675): 1031–1032, 13 June 1931, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.2841.1031-a, PMC
- "The Etiology of Goitre", British Medical Journal, 1 (2511): 434, 13 February 1909, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.2511.427, PMC
- Halliburton, W.D (18 June 1921), "Deficiency Disease (book review)", British Medical Journal, 1 (3155): 896–897, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3155.896, PMC
- McCarrison, R (10 April 1926), "Vitamin Deficiency", British Medical Journal, 1 (3406): 674, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3406.674, PMC
- Moore, T (25 April 1953), "Nutrition and Health (book review)", British Medical Journal, 1 (4816): 922, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.4816.922, PMC . Retrieved 12 August 2010
- McCarrison, Sir Robert (29 February 1936), "Nutrition and National Health", British Medical Journal, Cantor Lectures by Sir Robert McCarrison, 1 (3921): 427–430, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.3921.427, PMC , retrieved 10 August 2010
- Widdowson, E.M (January 1963), "Nutrition and Health, being the Cantor Lectures delivered before The Royal Society of Arts, together with Two Earlier Essays (book review)", British Journal of Industrial Medicine, 20 (1): 69, doi:10.1136/oem.20.1.69, PMC
- Miles, M (1998), "Goitre, cretinism and iodine in South Asia: historical perspectives on a continuing scourge", Medical History, 42 (1): 47–67, doi:10.1017/s002572730006333x, PMC , PMID 9536623
- Down the memory lane, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, India, retrieved 12 August 2010
- Arnold, David (2000), Science, technology, and medicine in Colonial India, The New Cambridge History of India. Part III, Volume 5, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 201, 215, ISBN 0-521-56319-4, retrieved 12 August 2010
- McCarrison, Lieut.-Colonel R (1928), "Memorandum on Malnutrition as a cause of physical inefficiency and ill-health among the masses in India (pp.96-98); Oral evidence (pp.99-116)", Royal Commission on Agriculture in India. Volume I, Part II, Evidence of Officers serving under the Government of India, Calcutta: Government of India, Central Publication Branch, pp. 95–116 (n118–n139 in electronic page fields), retrieved 12 August 2010 (Full text at Internet Archive
- McCarrison, Lieut.-Colonel R (1928), p.95
- Mantle, Paul, "Two Reviews (see review of Origins of the Organic Movement)", Tributes, The Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, p. 7, retrieved 14 August 2010
- Sayre, Laura (4 March 2004), Review: The Origins of the Organic Movement, Rodale Institute, retrieved 14 August 2010
- Ferry, Georgina (6 October 1983), "Eat your way to mental health", New Scientist, 100 (1378): 46, retrieved 13 August 2010
- The McCarrison Society (Scottish Group) (PDF), retrieved 13 August 2010
- Editorial (6 October 1983), "Big questions with elusive answers", New Scientist, 100 (1378): 2, retrieved 13 August 2010
- Sir Robert McCarrison, McCarrison Society for Nutrition and Health, retrieved 13 August 2010
- British Medical Journal online archive Access to articles is free, but requires a simple registration.
- RSM journal archives back to 1809 at PubMed Central Contains archives of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, access to which is free
- McCarrison Society for Nutrition and Health - homepage