Intended for healthcare professionals


David J P Barker

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 19 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5703
  1. Jan Barker, Mary Barker, Caroline Fall, Clive Osmond, Cyrus Cooper, Southampton
  1. chdf{at}

Epidemiologist who created a new area of research into the developmental origins of health and disease

David Barker was a physician and one of the most influential epidemiologists of our time. His “fetal programming hypothesis” (known as the “Barker hypothesis”) transformed thinking about the causes of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. He challenged the idea that they are explained by a combination of bad genes and unhealthy adult lifestyles, and proposed that their roots also lie in early life: “The nourishment a baby receives from its mother, and its exposure to infection after birth, permanently ‘programme’ the body’s structure and metabolism, and determine its susceptibility to chronic disease in later life.”1 2 He created a new area of research, which became known as the developmental origins of health and disease. He argued that tackling the epidemics of chronic disease in developed and developing countries requires a shift in focus to prioritise the health and nutrition of girls, pregnant women, and infants. Over 30 years he tenaciously pursued a deeper understanding, and translation into action, of these ideas.

David was educated at Beaudesert Park and Oundle, and he studied medicine at Guy’s Hospital, London. He became a research fellow …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription