John Boyd Orr, 1st Baron Boyd-Orr


John Boyd Orr, 1st Baron Boyd-Orr

Infobox Scientist
name = John Boyd Orr
box_width = 26em



image_width =
caption =
birth_date = 23 September 1880
birth_place = Kilmaurs, East Ayrshire
death_date = death date and age|1971|6|25|1880|9|23
death_place = Edzell, Angus
residence = Scotland
nationality = Scottish
field = Biology
Medicine Nutrition
work_institutions = University of Glasgow
Rowett Research Institute
alma_mater = University of Glasgow
doctoral_advisor = E.P. Cathcart
doctoral_students =
known_for = wartime nutrition
Food and Agriculture Organization
influences = E.P. Cathcart, Diarmid Noel Paton, Samuel Gemmill
influenced =
prizes = Bellahouston Gold Medal
Nobel Peace Prize
religion =
footnotes =

John Boyd Orr, 1st Baron Boyd-Orr, CH, DSO, MC, FRS (September 23 1880–June 25 1971), also known as Sir John Boyd Orr from 1935 to 1949, was a Scottish teacher, doctor, biologist and politician who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his scientific research into nutrition and his work as the first Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Early life and family background

John Boyd Orr was born at Kilmaurs, near Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, Scotland, the middle child in a family of seven children. His father, Robert Clark Orr, was a quarry owner, and a man of deep religious convictions, being a member of a sect of the Free Church of Scotland. His mother, Annie Boyd, was the daughter of another quarry master, wealthier than Robert Orr, and grandmaster of a Freemason's Lodge.

The family home was well supplied with books, and his father was widely read in political, sociological and metaphysical subjects, as well as religion. As he grew older, John would regularly discuss these subjects with his father, brothers, and visiting friends. [Kay is silent on whether his mother and sisters were also involved in these discussions] There was also family worship each evening.

When John was five years old, the family suffered a setback when a ship owned by Robert Orr was lost at sea. They had to sell their home in Kilmaurs, and moved to West Kilbride, a village on the North Ayrshire coast. According to Kay, the new house and environment were a great improvement on Kilmaurs, despite the family's reduced means. The major part of his up-bringing took place in and around West Kilbride. He attended the village school until he was thirteen. Religion was then an important part of junior education in Scotland, and the school gave him a good knowledge of the Bible, which stayed with him for the rest of his life.Kay, p. 44]

At the age of thirteen, John won a bursary to Kilmarnock Academy, a significant achievement as such bursaries were then rare. The new school was some convert|20|mi|km from his home in West Kilbride, but his father owned a quarry about two miles (3 km) from the Academy, and John was provided with accommodation nearby. His family cut short his education at the Academy because he was spending too much time in the company of the quarry workers (where he picked up a "wonderful vocabulary of swear words"), and he returned to the village school. There he became a pupil teacher at a salary of £10 for the first year, and £20 for the second. This was a particularly demanding time for the young Boyd Orr, as in addition to his teaching duties, and studying at home for his university and teacher-training qualifications, he also had to work every day in his father's business.

After four years as a pupil teacher, at the age of 19 he won a Queen's Scholarship to study at a teacher training college in Glasgow, plus a bursary which paid for his lodgings there. At the same time he entered a three-year degree course in theologycite web
title = Boyd-Orr of Brechin Mearns, John Boyd Orr, Baron
publisher = Encyclopaedia Britannica
year = 2007
url = http://library.eb.co.uk/eb/article-9016065
doi =
accessdate = 2007-08-11
] [but theology may or may not have been the subject in which he received his M.A. degree] at the University, for which the fees were also covered.

First encounters with poverty

As an undergraduate in Glasgow, he would explore the interior of the city, usually at weekends. He was shocked by what he found in the poverty-stricken slums and tenements, which then made up a large part of the city. Rickets was obvious among the children, malnutrition (in some cases, associated with drunkenness) was shown by many of the adults, and many of the aged were destitute. In his first teaching job after graduating M.A. in 1902, he was posted to a school in the slums. His first class was overcrowded, and the children ill-fed or actually hungry, inadequately clothed, visibly lousy and physically wretched. He resigned after a few days, realising that he could not teach children in such a condition, and that there was nothing he could do to relieve their misery.Kay, p. 46]

After working for a few months in his father's business, he taught for three years at Kyleshill School in Saltcoats, also a poor area, but less squalid than the slums of Glasgow.

Return to university

Boyd Orr needed to augment his teacher's salary, and decided to do so by instructing an evening class in book-keeping and accountancy. After intensive study he passed the necessary examinations, and duly instructed his class. The knowledge and skills he learned by studying for, and teaching, this class were to prove very useful in his later career.

However his heart was not in teaching, and after fulfilling his teaching obligations under the terms of his Queen's Scholarship, he returned to the University to study biology, a subject he had always been interested in since childhood. As a precaution, he entered simultaneously for a degree in medicine.

He found the university to be a very stimulating environment. Diarmid Noel Paton (son of the artist Joseph Noel Paton) was Regius Professor of Physiology, and Edward Provan Cathcart (E.P. Cathcart) head of Physiological Chemistry, both men of outstanding scientific ability. He was impressed by Samuel Gemmill, Professor of Clinical Medicine, a philosopher whose deep thinking on social affairs also influenced Boyd Orr's approach to such questions.

Half-way through his medical studies, his savings ran out. Reluctant to ask his family for support, he bought a block of tenanted flats on mortgage, with the help of a bank overdraft, and used the rents to pay for the rest of his studies. On graduating, he sold the property for a small profit.

He graduated B.Sc. in 1910, and M.B. Ch.B. in 1912, at the age of 32, placing sixth in a year of 200 students. Two years later, in 1914, he graduated M.D. with honours, receiving the Bellahouston Gold Medal for the most distinguished thesis of the year.

Research career

On leaving the university, he took a position as a ship's surgeon on a ship trading between Scotland and West Africa, choosing this job because it offered the possibility of paying off his bank overdraft faster than any other. He resigned after four months, when he had repaid the debt. He then tried general practice, working as a "locum" in the practice of his family doctor in Saltcoats, and was offered a partnership there. Realising that a career in medicine was not for him, he instead accepted the offer of a two-year Carnegie research scholarship, to work in E.P. Cathcart's laboratory. The work he began there covered malnutrition, protein [cite journal
last = Cathcart
first = E.P.
coauthors = Boyd Orr, John
title = The influence of carbohydrate and fat on protein metabolism. iii. The effect of sodium selenite
journal = The Journal of Physiology
volume = 48
issue =
pages = 113–127
year = 1914
url = http://jp.physoc.org/cgi/reprint/48/2-3/113.pdf
doi =
accessdate = 2007-08-09
format=PDF
] and creatine [cite journal
last = Cathcart
first = E.P.
coauthors = Boyd Orr, John
title = The influence of acetoacetic acid on the estimation of creatinine
journal = The Journal of Physiology
volume = 48
issue =
pages = xxi-xxii
year = 1914
url = http://jp.physoc.org/cgi/reprint/48/Suppl/xix.pdf
doi =
accessdate = 2007-08-09
format=PDF
] [Boyd Orr, John (June 1914) "A contribution to the metabolism of creatine." M.D. Thesis, Glasgow] metabolism, the effect of water intake on nitrogenous metabolism in humans, [cite journal
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
coauthors = Burns, D.
title = The influence of excessive water ingestion on the excretion of creatine and creatinine
journal = British Medical Journal
volume =
pages =
date = 19 September 1914
] [cite journal
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
title = The influence of excessive water ingestion on protein metabolism
journal = Biochemical Journal
volume = 8
issue = 5
pages = 530–540
date = October 1914
url = http://www.biochemj.org/bj/008/0530/0080530.pdf
doi =
accessdate = 2007-08-10
format=PDF
] and the energy expenditure of military recruits in training. [Citation
last = Boyd Orr
first = J
last2 = Cathcart, E.P.
author2-link =
title = The energy expenditure of infantry recruits in training
pages =
year = 1919
location = London
publisher = HMSO
]

The beginnings of the Rowett Research Institute

On 1 April 1914, Boyd Orr took charge of a new research institute in Aberdeen, a project of a joint committee for research into animal nutrition of the North of Scotland College of Agriculture and Aberdeen University. He had been offered the post on the recommendation of E.P. Cathcart, who had originally been offered the job, but had turned it down in favour of a chair in physiology in London.

The joint committee had allocated a budget of £5,000 for capital expenditure and £1,500 for annual running costs. Boyd Orr recognised immediately that these sums were inadequate. Using his experience in his father's business of drawing up plans and estimating costs, he submitted a budget of £50,000 for capital expenditure and £5,000 for annual running costs. Meanwhile, with the £5,000 he had already been allocated he specified a building, not of wood as had been envisaged by the committee, but of granite and designed so that it could serve as a wing of his proposed £50,000 Institute. He accepted the lowest tender of £5,030, and told the contractors to begin work immediately. The committee were not pleased, but had to accept the "fait accompli". When war broke out the contractors were told to finish the walls and roof, but to do no more for the time being.

War service

On the outbreak of the First World War he was given leave to join the British Army, and asked his former colleague Cathcart to help him obtain a medical commission in an infantry unit overseas. Cathcart thought he would be more useful at home, and his first commission was in a special civilian section of the R.A.M.C. dealing with sanitation. Several divisions of non-conscripted recruits were in training in emergency camps at home, some of them in very poor sanitary conditions. Boyd Orr was able to push through schemes for improvement in hygiene, preventing much sickness.Kay, p. 49]

After 18 months he was posted as Medical Officer to an infantry unit, the 1st Sherwood Foresters. He spent much of his time in shell holes, patching up the many wounded. His courage under fire and devotion to duty were recognised by the award of a Military Cross after the Battle of the Somme, and of the Distinguished Service Order after Passchendaele. He also made arrangements for the battalion's diet to be supplemented by vegetables collected from local deserted gardens and fields. As a result, unlike other units, he did not need to send any of the men in his medical charge to hospital. He also prevented his men getting trench foot by personally ensuring they were fitted with boots a size larger than usual.

Worried that he was losing touch with medical and nutritional advances, he asked to be transferred to the navy, where he thought he would have more time available for reading and research. The army was reluctant to let him go, but agreed, since he was still a "civilian surgeon." He spent a busy three months in the naval hospital at Chatham, studying hard while practicing medicine in the wards, before being posted to HMS Furious. On board ship his medical duties were light, enabling him to do a great deal of reading. He was later recalled to work studying food requirements of the army.

Post-war expansion of the Rowett Research Institute

When Boyd Orr returned to Aberdeen in early 1919, his plan for a larger Institute had stil not been accepted. Indeed, even his plans for the annual maintenance grant had to be approved by the Professor of Agriculture in Cambridge, T.B. Wood. Despite gaining the latter's support, his expansion plans were at first rebuffed, although he succeeded in having the annual grant increased to £4,000. In 1920 he was introduced to John Quiller Rowett, a businessman who seemed to have qualms of conscienceKay, p. 51] over the large profits he had made during the war. Shortly afterwards, the government agreed to finance half the cost of Boyd Orr's plan, provided he could raise the other half elsewhere. Rowett agreed to provide £10,000 for the first year, £10,000 for the second year, and gave an additional £2,000 for the purchase of a farm, provided that, "if any work done at the Institute on animal nutrition was found to have a bearing on human nutrition, the Institute would be allowed to follow up this work",cite web
title = General Information
publisher = Rowett Research Institute
year = 2005
url = http://www.rowett.ac.uk/institute/history.html
accessdate = 2007-07-20
] a condition the Treasury was willing to accept. By September 1922 the buildings were nearly completed, and the renamed Rowett Research Institute was opened shortly thereafter by Queen Mary.Kay, p. 52]

Boyd Orr proved to be an effective fund-raiser from both government and private sources, [cite journal
last = Smith
first = David
title = The Agricultural Research Association, the Development Fund, and the Origins of the Rowett Research Institute
journal = Agricultural History Review
volume = 46
issue = 1
pages = 47–63
date =
url = http://www.bahs.org.uk/46n1a4.pdf
accessdate = 2007-07-21
format=PDF
] expanding the experimental farm to around convert|1000|acre|km2, building a well-endowed library, and expanding the buildings. He also built a centre for accommodating students and scientists attracted by the Institute's growing reputation, a reputation enhanced by Boyd Orr's many publications.Kay, p. 54] His research output suffered from the time and energy he had to devote to fund-raising, and in later life he said, "I still look with bitter resentment at having to spend half my time in the humiliating job of hunting for money for the Institute."

Through the 1920s, his own research was devoted mainly to animal nutrition, his focus changed to human nutrition both as a researcher and an active lobbyist and propagandist for improving people's diets.

International and political work

Orr, by now Rector of the University of Glasgow, was elected as an independent Member of Parliament (MP) for the Combined Scottish Universities in a by-election in April 1945, and kept his seat at the general election shortly after. He resigned in 1946.

After the Second World War, Boyd Orr resigned from the Rowett Institute, and took several posts, most notably at the FAO, where his comprehensive plans for improving food production and its equitable distribution failed to get the support of Britain and the US. He then resigned from the FAO and became director of a number of companies and proved a canny investor in the stock market, making a considerable personal fortune. When he received the [Nobel Peace Prize] in 1949, he donated the entire financial award to organizations devoted to world peace and a united world government. (The American Friends Service Committee was one of his nominators. [ [http://www.afsc.org/about/nobel/past-nominations.htm AFSC's Past Nobel Nominations] ] ) He was elevated to the peerage in 1949 as Baron Boyd-Orr.

In 1960 Boyd Orr was elected the first president of the World Academy of Art and Science, which was set up by eminent scientists of the day concerned about the potential misuse of scientific discoveries, most especially nuclear weapons.

The University of Glasgow has a building named after John Boyd Orr, and the University's Hunterian Museum holds his Nobel medal.

Bibliography

*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
title = Scotch Church Crisis: The Full Story of the Modern Phase of the Presbyterian Struggle
year = 1905
publisher = John M'Neilage
location = Glasgow

*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
title = Minerals in Pastures and Their Relation to Animal Nutrition
year = 1929
publisher = Lewis
location = London

*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
title = The National Food Supply and Its Influence on National Health
year = 1934
publisher = King
location = London

*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
title = Food, Health and Income
year = 1936
publisher = Macmillan
location = London

*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
year = 1937
title = Nutritional Science and State Planning
in cite book
author = John Boyd Orr "et al." (eds)
title = What Science Stands For
publisher = Allen & Unwin
location = London

*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
title = Fighting for What?
year = 1942
publisher = Macmillan
location = London

*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
title = Food and the People
year = 1943
publisher = Pilot Press
location = London

*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
title = A Charter for Health
year = 1946
publisher = Allen & Unwin
location = London

*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
title = Food: The Foundation of World Unity
year = 1948
publisher = National Peace Council
location = London

*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
title = International Liaison Committee of Organisations for Peace: A New Strategy of Peace
year = 1950
publisher = National Peace Council
location = London

*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
title = Feast and famine: The wonderful world of food
year = 1957
publisher = Rathbone Books
location = London
69pp
*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
title = The Wonderful World of Food: The Substance of Life
year = 1958
publisher = Garden City Books
location = Garden City, NY

*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
coauthors = David Lubbock
title = The White Man's Dilemma: Food and the Future
year = 1964
origyear = 1953
edition = 2nd edition
publisher = Allen & Unwin
location = London
124pp
*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
others = with an introduction by Ritchie Calder
title = As I recall: the 1880s to the 1960s
year = 1966
publisher = MacGibbon & Kee
location = London

*cite book
last = Boyd Orr
first = John
coauthors = Robert Nelson Beck
title = Ethical Choice
year = 1970
publisher = Free Press
location = London
isbn = 0029020700
444pp

Notes

References

*cite journal
last = Cuthbertson
first = D P
date = January 1972
title = Lord Boyd Orr
journal = British Journal of Nutrition
volume = 27
issue = 1

pages = 1
doi = 10.1079/BJN19720063
id =
url = http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=1&fid=1224260&jid=BJN&volumeId=27&issueId=01&aid=1224256
accessdate = 2007-08-15
(obituary)
*cite journal
last = Kay
first = H D
title = John Boyd Orr. Baron Boyd Orr of Brechin Mearns. 1880-1971
journal = Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society
volume = 18
issue =
pages = pp43–81
publisher = Royal Society
date = November 1972
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2007-06-08
(obituary)

External links

* [http://www.nobel.se/peace/laureates/1949/index.html Nobel Committee information on 1949 Peace Prize]

Persondata
NAME= Boyd Orr, John
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Boyd Orr, Sir John; Baron Boyd Orr; Boyd Orr, Lord John; Lord Boyd Orr
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Biology, Medicine, Nutrition
DATE OF BIRTH= 23 September 1880
PLACE OF BIRTH= Kilmaurs, East Ayrshire
DATE OF DEATH= 25 June 1971
PLACE OF DEATH= Edzell, Angus


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