Walter Plowright A Hero You Have Never Heard Of
Walter Plowright developed a vaccine against the cattle virus rinderpest that has effectively eradicated a disease that devastated cattle herds all over the world. After he initiated mass vaccination programmes in the developing world Plowright was hailed for transforming cattle-based economies that had been blighted by the virus. The vaccine has also led to a massive boost in global supplies of meat and dairy products.
The announcement that rinderpest has been eradicated is expected this year. It is only the second disease in history to have been eradicated through human efforts, the first being smallpox.
Africa has produced additional food output worth an estimated $47 billion while in India the additional income is estimated to be worth $289 billion. It is calculated that an additional 70 million tonnes of meat and more than one billion tonnes of milk have been produced in the developing world as a result of eradicating rinderpest.
The increase in healthy cattle throughout Asia and Africa — vital for fertilising soils, planting and cultivating crops and carrying loads — has also boosted production rates on subsistence farms worldwide. Plowright’s achievements in relation to boosting food production were recognised with the World Food Prize in 1999.
The far-reaching benefits of Plowright’s work were not only scientific; they also represented “a significant humanitarian achievement”.
In person Plowright was a most upright character, absolutely fair in his dealings with people. He was popular with his colleagues and students: a twinkle in his eye belied what might have seemed on first acquaintance a rather stern demeanour.
He is survived by his wife Dorothy.
Walter Plowright, CMG, FRS, veterinary surgeon and research scientist, was born July 20, 1923. He died on February 19, 2010, aged 86