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Walter Werner Holland: pioneer of European public health

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 05 March 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k1032
  1. Martin McKee,
  2. Peter Burney
  1. London, UK
  1. Martin.McKee{at}

Walter Werner Holland was professor of clinical epidemiology and social medicine at St Thomas’ Hospital from1968 to 1994. He was born into a Jewish family in Czechoslovakia, and his father, who had previously helped Germans fleeing the Nazi regime, left for England immediately after the German occupation of Prague in 1939. By switching trains in Germany he crossed the border out of the country in a train that was not thoroughly searched. Soon after, Walter and his mother followed. Other family members were not so lucky; his grandmother perished in Theresienstadt concentration camp. Despite initially speaking little English, he was an accomplished student at Rugby School and subsequently at St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School. His interest in research was kindled when he was among a handful of students in his year to be selected for an intercalated BSc in physiology, graduating in 1951 and, subsequently, MBBS in 1954.

During national service with the Royal Air Force, Walter was posted to the Central Public Health Laboratory Service to work on vaccines against adenoviruses, but, in what would prove a serendipitous mistake, the manufacturers inadvertently destroyed a batch of vaccine, and he was offered the chance …

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