Papers of Prof. John Pemberton (1912-2010), epidemiologist

Scope and Content

Prof. John Pemberton (1912-2010) was an epidemiologist working in the field of social and preventative medicine, and in the international dissemination of this research.

As a student he was influenced by left wing politics and became interested in the links between social conditions and health. He published the paper 'Malnutrition in England' in 1934 while still a medical student (a republished copy held at 624/1/6/1).

In 1937, he was recruited by Sir John Boyd Orr to undertake a major survey of the effects of poverty on nutrition (and health) in the UK, and was acknowledged by Lord Woolton (Minister of Food during the Second World War) as the foundation for the successful nutrition policy during the Second World War.

He was responsible for the birth of three scientific societies – the International Epidemiological Association (IEA), the Society for Social Medicine and the All-Ireland Society of Social Medicine.

After lecturing at Sheffield University, he was appointed to the chair of social and preventative medicine in Queen's University, Belfast, where he stayed until retirement in 1976. While in Belfast, he was the first to prove conclusively that flax caused the lung disease byssinosis, enabling workers exposed to flax fibre to claim compensation.

Through the IEA, he helped make epidemiology an important tool in global health, and served as a consultant to the World Health Organisation in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Soviet Union.

His hobbies included painting and literature, and the archive contains examples of his work.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Pemberton archive was donated by John Pemberton's son, Adam Pemberton, in May 2012.

Access Information

Items in 624/1/3/5 and 624/1/10/2 are closed until 2039 due to patients being identified. Otherwise access is available by prior appointment, during 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.