The Alexander Haddow Collection: Haddow the Man

Blog-Post part of a series by Eleanor Tiplady, Immunology PhD Student and Intern on the Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) scheme:

The Archives hold a collection of materials belonging to the medical entomologist Alexander J Haddow, who was an alumnus and professor at the University of Glasgow. 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. Haddow was mainly known during his lifetime for his studies of yellow fever, but his research team also discovered several previously unknown viruses including the Zika virus. A previous post has given a brief overview of his career and the materials held by the Archives, and another gave a more in-depth account of the research Haddow carried out.


The Chalmers Memorial Medal of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygeine, awarded to Alexander Haddow (GLAHM 37637)

The Chalmers Memorial Medal of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygeine, awarded to Alexander Haddow in 1957 (GLAHM 37637)

Although Haddow’s materials are largely professional with very little in the way of personal reflection, a glimpse of his personality does emerge from within. As would be expected of a scientist in a senior position, his work shows a highly methodical and meticulous nature – over 25 years, he carefully recorded and measured the behaviour of mosquitoes in their native environments in order to build an understanding of how diseases were spread. His results are all transcribed by hand, and data is tabulated in multiple formats. He also carried out a number of paintsaking, precise tasks such as dissecting mosquito ovaries to attempt to discern their age. Haddow donated some of his scientific awards to the Hunterian Museum, including a Chalmers Medal awarded by the Royal Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, which he had gold-plated.

Sketch by Haddow of Ceropithecus Ascanius Schmidt Adult Male monkey, 1949 (GLAHA 42541)

Sketch by Haddow of Ceropithecus Ascanius Schmidt Adult Male monkey, 1949 (GLAHA 42541)

Haddow was a zoology graduate and went on to work as an entomologist, so it is not surprising that he showed a keen interest in the natural world. This did not just involve scientific study: during his time in Africa, he made some fine sketches of monkeys that are now on display at the University of Glasgow’s Graham Kerr Building. He also did a small amount of game hunting while in Africa, obtaining four heads that returned to Glasgow with him and were donated to the Hunterian Museum. The animals he shot were clearly chosen with care, and from his descriptions of them, his interest in the activity appeared to be far more scientific than sporting:


“I did not do a great deal of big game shooting and I was very selective in what I did shoot, as a result of which I have four superlative heads, which I would like to leave with you. Three of these heads are in the official Rowland Ward Book of Records …


[First], there is an immense head of a Haartebeest. This is a fantastically shaped skull perhaps the extreme of non-adaptive radiation to be found in this group, and it is among the half-dozen best specimens in existence. This head is of Alcelaphus buselaphus lelwel and it comes from Kakamari, Karamoja, Uganda. Details are on Rowland Ward, page 8. This is a very fine specimen indeed. It is in fact a much more handsome one than some higher on the list.”

Sketch book of Alexander Haddow from the 1940s (GLAHM E.1978-38)

Sketch book of Alexander Haddow from his time in Africa, 1940s (GLAHM E.1978-38)


It appears that Haddow was not only interested in animals, but was also a keen amateur anthropologist. He gathered a collection of items from his time in East Africa, many of which were later donated to the Hunterian Museum. These included ceremonial knives, staves and stools. Haddow sketched several pictures of people wearing traditional dress and wrote an article about the cultural significance of head dresses for the men of Uganda. After returning to Glasgow, he devoted much time and effort into the Piobaireachd Society (a genre of Highland piping music, also known as Pibroch or Ceòl mòr). A large part of the collection held by the archives consists of his notes on traditional piping music, including his research into the history and structure of the songs, which eventually formed a book, “The History and Structure of Ceol Mor”, published posthumously.

Alexander Haddow's self-designed bookplate

Alexander Haddow’s self-designed bookplate

Haddow’s collection portrays him as a true polymath and a man with endless curiosity who approached his hobbies as analytically as he did his work.

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: Zika Virus: Present, Past and Future to join in on a panel discussion about the research going on at the University of Glasgow.

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