Blog-Post by Eleanor Tiplady, Immunology PhD Student and Intern on the Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) scheme:
Alexander J Haddow was an alumnus and professor at the University of Glasgow. Born in Glasgow in 1912, he made his career as a distinguished medical entomologist and researcher in the field of insect-borne diseases. Haddow was mainly known during his lifetime for his studies of the mosquitoes that spread yellow fever, but his research team also discovered several previously unknown viruses including the Zika virus, which was largely forgotten until recently, when an unprecedented outbreak of the disease began in Brazil.
Haddow had strong links to the University of Glasgow – he was both an undergraduate and postgraduate student here, and was appointed the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine in later life. The majority of his research career was spent studying insect-borne diseases, particularly viruses, in Entebbe, Uganda at what is now known as the Uganda Virus Research Institute. He was Director of the Institute from 1953 until 1965 when he returned to Glasgow. The Zika virus, discovered in 1947, was named after the Zika forest near the Institute, where it was first isolated from a monkey and shortly afterwards from Aedes africanus mosquitoes.
Near his death, Haddow personally donated research materials from his time in Africa to the University Archives. These consist mainly of his bound research notes and results tables, copies of published articles on viruses discovered by his group, and volumes of the Institute’s annual reports. Haddow considered it vital to preserve this material so it would not be lost. After his death, his widow also donated a great deal of Haddow’s personal material mostly relating to Haddow’s study of traditional piping music. He also donated a large collection to the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, including game heads, ethnographic items from Eastern Africa and archaeological finds from the Antonine Wall.
The scientific materials in the archive show results from Haddow’s experiments, which mainly involved catching mosquitoes in the forest in order to determine where and when different species were active. These mosquitoes were often used to attempt to isolate viruses, particularly yellow fever, but also any unknown viruses. Haddow’s research materials and annual reports cover the first isolation of the Zika virus from Aedes africanus mosquitoes, caught in the Zika forest. They also include the isolation of several other previously unknown viruses by Haddow’s research team, the most widely-known of which include Bunyamwera, O’nyong-nyong and Chikungunya.
The archive materials cover the nearly 25 years Haddow spent in Africa, and give an insight into the vast quantities of data he generated during this time, as well as the painstaking analysis he carried out on these results, including tabulating his results in several formats and creating hand-drawn graphs to communicate his findings.
Find out more about the collection on our Alexander Haddow and Zika Virus collections page.
You can also find out more by coming along to our free Glasgow Science Festival event on Wednesday 15th June: Zika Virus: Present, Past and Future to join in on a panel discussion about the research going on at the University of Glasgow.
Categories: Archive Services