Professor David Cornelius Morley

James Spence Medallist

Date of death: 02 July 2009

Year James Spence Medal awarded: 1989

David Morley CBE studied at Cambridge and St Thomas's Hospital. He completed his national service in Malaysia and it was here he was first introduced to the inequalities of health care in the developing world. He worked in Australia in general practice and then Newcastle upon Tyne, where he participated in the ‘1000 families’ project.  He spent five years in Imisi, a rural village in Nigeria, and transformed the approach to children’s health care in the developing world. He found infant mortality rate could be reduced by over 80% through education and locally available resources. He undertook the first trial of measles vaccine in tropical Africa, leading to measles being eradicated in Imisi, and developed the Road to Health growth chart.

After returning to England, David worked at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine before being asked by Otto Wolff to take over a UNICEF sponsored course at the Institute of Child Health for senior teachers in child health from developing countries. It was described as a travelling university and led to the formation of the Tropical Child Health Unit at the Institute of Child Health in London, where David became a Professor.

David was an innovator; he invented TALC-teaching aids at low cost and modified weighing scales so innumerate mothers in rural villages were able to monitor infants’ progress. His work has been recognised worldwide and he has received numerous honours, such as the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine for primary health care in 1982, an international prize and gold medal from UNICEF, an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Uppsala in Sweden, and in 1989 the Queen made him a Commander of the British Empire, not to mention nominations and awards from universities, academies, educational institutes, and research centres from all over the world.