Friday, 20 September 2013

Archive Collection of the Month: Charles Wilcocks

LSHTM's current exhibition on Global Mental Health  features one of Charles Wilcock's scripts, 'Disorders of the Mind' which is from LSHTM Archives. This was part of a series called 'Doctor in the House', broadcast on the BBC's General Overseas Service (an earlier version of what is now the World Service) between July 1962 - March 1964. 'Disorders of the Mind' was broadcast on 10 May 1963.
Wilcocks broadcast at least 90 episodes. They lasted about 8 minutes and covered a broad range of health issues. Wilcocks also wrote several other health-related series for the Overseas Service such as 'Women and the World' and ' Techniques for the Tropics'.
Wilcocks' archive also includes a watercolour of  a typical medical officer's residence in East Africa in the 1920s-1930s. Wilcocks is probably the artist.

Wilcocks' Background:
Charles Wilcocks (1896-1977) was a graduate of Manchester University and  served in the First World War in Egypt and the Palestine Campaign, 1915-19. In 1924, he graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree (MB Ch.B.). He then joined the East African Medical Service in 1927, becoming Tuberculosis Research Officer in Tanganyika in 1930. From 1938-1961, he worked at the Bureau of Hygiene and Tropical Diseases and was its director from 1942 to 1961. He took the Diploma in Tropical Medicine &Hygiene at LSHTM in 1941 and was awarded the Andrew Balfour Memorial Scholarship in the same year.
On leaving the Bureau, he undertook a number of roles in the field of public health and tropical medicine, including consultant to the Counties Public Health Laboratories, London, 1962-1976, a member of the Court of Governors of LSHTM, 1963-1971 and a writer and narrator of a large volume of scripts for BBC radio

To find out more about the Wilcocks collection, or  LSHTM Archives, see our web pages

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Cataloguing the paper of Dr Peter Piot: the archives of Projet SIDA (1983-1992)

Having finished repackaging the archives of Peter Piot for the past couple of weeks I have been cataloguing this collection. Cataloguing often requires a degree of familiarity with the contents in order to make accurate and informed descriptions and therefore it necessitates background reading of the subject or individual. Fortunately, for this collection I have the interesting and compelling account by the man himself in the form of his memoir, No Time to Lose (2012). The chapters that really stick out are his fieldwork in Africa on both the Ebola Virus and HIV/AIDS as they resonate the thrill and the horror of studying a new infectious disease in the middle of an epidemic. The archives mirrors the book with significant holdings on both diseases. In this post, I would like to concentrate on Projet SIDA, the Zairean-American-Belgium AIDS research project that ran from 1984 to 1992. 

Clinical definition of AIDS (c.1983)
In No Time To Lose, Peter Piot recalled how a number of the patients he attended at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp exhibited AIDS-like symptom. The significance at the time was these patients were not the previously identified risk groups (the virus had only recently been named as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome was coined, the virus was previously known as the '4 H' virus after the confirmed communities affected: homosexuals, heroin users, hemophiliacs and Haitans) but all had ties or had spent time in Zaire. He knew he needed to go to the country to find out what was going on and was fortunate to encounter two US epidemiologists with the same assessment. Dr Tom Quinn and Dr Richard Krause, of the U.S National Institute of Health (NIH), they had both noticed the link with Zaire when investigating the AIDS outbreak in Haiti and in a cafe in Geneva, the three agreed to launch an investigation in the country. They were joined by Joseph McCormick, of the U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and arrived in Kinshasa, then Zaire in October 1983. 

When they arrived in Memo Yamba Hospital the epidemic was worse than they could imagine. Piot noted that the team saw fifty people alone on the first morning with AIDS symptoms which was a huge number for 1983 with only 2000 reported cases, many of them retrospectively. The team began to collect and examine blood samples from the patients and sent the samples to the team headed by Professor Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute in Paris.The results of the tests confirmed the presence of AIDS with 97% positive results from the original sample. With this information the team and the other epidemiological and clinical information gathered the team produced an article that was published in the Lancet in 14th July 1984 confirming the first heterosexual HIV/AIDS cases in Africa. 

Manuscript note by Dr Piot relating to the LAV test results of Dr Montagnier for patients from the Memo Yamba Hospital

On the back of this preliminary investigation, it was decided that a major international project should be launched that would be known as Projet SIDA. The US health agencies, CDC and NIH provided the bulk of the funding with the third partner being the ITM, led by Piot. The project began in 1984 with it's first director being Dr Jonathan Mann, who would later become the Director of the World Health Organisation's Global Programme on AIDS, the precursor to UNAIDS. In it's time Projet SIDA employed over three hundred people, a number of them being Zairean doctors and hospital staff who former director, Dr Robin Ryder, described as the 'backbone' of the project. The project produced over 120 publications over the course of it's duration and was cited in thousand abstracts. It ended in 1992 as both the Belgium and US governments withdrew it's nationals in the face of the escalating nature of the Ugandan civil war. 

The archive of Projet SIDA provides a glimpse of the clinical work of the ITM during the breadth of the project. This includes material collected from the preliminary study in 1983 and later reports, blank medical questionnaires and project documentation along with numerous correspondence between Piot and project staff members and project partners, notably the former directors such as Jonathan Mann, Dr Robin Ryder and Dr William Heyward. 

To read more about the project there is an excellent article, by Joe Cohen, entitled, 'The Rise and Fall of Projet SIDA', published in Science is available online (and where a number of my references are from) at the following:

Open House on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September

The School is participating in Open House London this weekend, and for the first time we are opening our doors to visitors on both Saturday and Sunday. This annual event celebrates the capital's architecture and aims to open up London's great buildings, especially those that aren't usually publicly accessible, to a wider audience. Participating provides a great opportunity to raise awareness of the Keppel Street building and the School's activities.

The Library
Last year over 500 people visited the School and were taken on a historical tour of the building which started outside looking at the features on the exterior of the building. Visitors were then led round the ground floor to the North Courtyard, upstairs to the John Snow lecture theatre and Library and then down in to the South Courtyard. At the end of the tour visitors had the opportunity to view an exhibition of historical photographs and documents and pick up postcards, leaflets and publications relating to the School's history as well as to its current work.

For more information, contact the Archives team at

Monday, 16 September 2013

Library Opening Hours Tuesday 17th September

The Library & Archives Services will be closed between 10.30am and 12pm on Tuesday 17th September for an LAS Staff Meeting.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Launch of Adopt-A-Book

The Library's new Adopt-A-Book scheme was launched today, with a lunchtime event for School staff.

Interested staff and students were able to view the books up for adoption, while eating lunch and discussing the conservation and preservation needs of the items.

Gifts to the Adopt-A-Book programme will be used to preserve and conserve these and other books in the Library's rare books collections. The launch was deemed a success with three donations already pledged.

If you would like to donate to Adopt-A-Book, please download the Adopt-A-Book leaflet (PDF), complete the tear-off section and send it back to us.

More information on Adopt-A-Book is available from the Library website.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Adopt-A-Book launch, 5 September

All LSHTM staff and students are invited to a lunch reception to launch Adopt-A-Book.

Thursday 5 September 2013, 12.30 - 2 pm in the Library.

Come and meet the books up for adoption and discuss their preservation and conservation needs with Library staff.

As one of the world's leading schools of public and global health, we believe it is our responsibility to ensure the history of our subjecct is preserved for future generations. Your donation to Adopt-A-Book will be used to fund a variety of preservation and conservation activities. Almost half of our rare books require a made-to-measure protective cover and support, which helps protect the book from further deterioration. The Library can make basic repairs in-house, but items which have suffered serious damage require specialist work from a trained book conservator.

It is possible to adopt an individual title or subject area, as well as contribute to the general conservation of our historical collections. Adopting a book from the School's collections is a great way to mark an event, remember the life of a friend, relation or colleague, or show your support for the work of the Library.

For more information about Adopt-A-Book, see our website or email the Library.