Walter Hadwen

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Walter Robert Hadwen MD MRCS MRCP (3 August 1854, Woolwich – 27 December 1932) was a Gloucester general practitioner and pharmaceutical chemist, president of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), and an anti-vaccination campaigner known for his denial of the germ theory of disease.


Hadwen began his career as a pharmacist in Clapham then Somerset, then subsequently trained as a doctor at Bristol University. After qualifying, he moved to Gloucester in 1896. Hadwen was recruited as a member of BUAV by its founder and then president Frances Power Cobbe who hired a private investigator to assess his credentials (he was a vegetarian and total abstainer, had a reputation as a "firebrand" orator and was held in "high local esteem"). She subsequently selected him as her successor.

He joined the Plymouth Brethren as an adult.

He was a frequent speaker for the National Anti-Vaccination League.

He was also a member of the London Association for the Prevention of Premature Burial (founded in 1896).

Manslaughter trial[edit]

In 1924, having applied his rejection of the germ theory of disease, and his refusal to use diphtheria anti-serum produced by inoculation of animals to the treatment of Nellie Burnham, a young girl, she died and he was tried for manslaughter by criminal medical negligence.[1] He was acquitted of all charges.



  • 1896, "The Case Against Vaccination"
  • The Difficulties of Dr Deguerre
  • 1902 Smallpox at Gloucester. A reply to Dr. Coupland’s Report by Walter Hadwen. Reprinted from "The Reformer," National Anti-Vaccination League: Gloucester


  • Hadwen of Gloucester: Man, Medico, Martyr, by Beatrice E. Kidd and M. Edith Richards, 1933, John Murray, London

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Times up to and including 30 October 1924


  • Who was Dr Hadwen Biography at Dr Hadwen Trust
  • Frances Power Cobbe: Victorian Feminism, Journalist, Reformer, Sally Mitchell, 2004, University of Virginia Press ISBN 0-8139-2271-2
  • Bodily Matters: The Anti-Vaccination Movement in England, 1853-1907, Nadja Durbach, 2005, Duke University Press, ISBN 0-8223-3423-2
  • Obituary, The Times, Saturday, 25 February 1933 John Murray, London, 1933

External links[edit]