Intended for healthcare professionals


John Pemberton

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 28 April 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2230
  1. Jon Nicholl,
  2. Walter Holland

    Epidemiologist and founder of academic public health medicine

    Qualifying before the second world war, John Pemberton was greatly affected by the poverty and social conditions of that time. While at medical school in 1936 he and some fellow students set up a first aid station to help feed and tend the sore feet of the Jarrow marchers. Two hundred people had marched almost 300 miles from the town of Jarrow, in Tyne And Wear, to protest at parliament in London against the unemployment and extreme poverty that existed in northeast England during the great depression. Pemberton had written his first article, Malnutrition in England, in 1934, in which he showed that the benefits provided to unemployed people in England were not sufficient to sustain healthy families (University College Hospital Magazine 1934; Jul-Aug, reprinted in Int J Epidemiol, 2003;32:493-5).

    Born in 1912 in Essex, he attended Christ’s Hospital school in Horsham from 1922 to 1930, when he went up to study medicine at University College London and University College Hospital, qualifying in 1936. After house appointments at University College Hospital he was recruited by John Boyd Orr to spend two years, from 1937-1939, in charge of a mobile nutritional research team. It undertook a survey to set up a cohort of some 5000 British children. This showed the effects of poverty on nutrition and was acknowledged by Lord …

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