AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

HACKETT, Cecil John (1905-1995)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0113 MS-HACKC
Held at: Royal College of Physicians
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: HACKETT, Cecil John (1905-1995)
Date(s): 1930-1978
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 8 files ( box ); 1 volume
Name of creator(s): Hackett | Cecil John | 1905-1995 | medical scientist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Cecil John Hackett was born in Norwood, South Australia, on 25 April 1905, the son of Richard Hackett, horticulturalist. He was educated in Adelaide, first at Queen's School and then at St Peter's School, before going on to read medicine at Adelaide University. As a student he went on several expeditions to central Australia. One such trip included a visit to Ayers Rock, then little known. Hackett gained his MB BS from Adelaide in 1927 and came to England to study at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where he obtained his diploma in 1930. In 1931 he became a member of the Royal College of Physicians.

Hackett took up a post at the Lester Research Institute in Shanghai, which he had to relinquish shortly afterwards when he developed tuberculosis. He returned to Adelaide to convalesce. In 1933, once fully recovered, he took part in an expedition to the Musgrove and Mann Ranges, in the northern part of the Great Victoria Desert. Here he studied the lives of the Pitjantjatjara, a community of nomadic hunter-gatherers, who sustained Hackett's party during their exploration. Hackett studied their way of life and their fight against disease. Upon his return he undertook research into physical anthropology at Adelaide University. In 1934 he obtained his MD and took up a post in the physiology department of the university. It was during this time that he wrote his first work on yaws, Boomerang Leg and Yaws in Australian Aborigines (1936). Soon afterwards Hackett returned to England and took up a position in Cambridge University's anatomy department.

In 1937 Hackett obtained a senior research fellowship from the Medical Research Council. This enabled him to undertake two extended visits to Lango in northern Uganda, where he studied the clinical effects of yaws, which he photographed extensively. The Second World War interrupted his research work, and in 1940 he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF). He became engaged in controlling malaria among Allied detachments in various parts of the tropics, including Sierra Leone, Egypt, and Burma. During the War he managed to continue his research, taking clinical photographs of yaws and other tropical conditions he came across. By the end of the War, in 1945, he had reached the rank of wing commander.

He returned to London and became the director of the Wellcome Museum of Medical Science, which had been closed during the War. The museum, which had thus far encompassed the world of medicine and hygiene and been directed at undergraduates, was transformed by Hackett into a postgraduate teaching museum of tropical medicine. In 1951 he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. In the same year he obtained his PhD from London University, after presenting his written up results of his researches in Lango. His published thesis was entitled Bone Lesions of Yaws in Uganda (1951). At this time he began to lecture at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

In 1954 Hackett left his academic career and joined the World Health Organisation (WHO). He became involved in a worldwide yaws eradication programme, based on the mass administration of penicillin. The campaigns were highly successful and yaws was practically wiped out. There is `little doubt that Hackett played a significant role in its achievement' (Munk's Roll, 2000, p.182).

Hackett retired from the WHO in 1965. With yaws now medical history he embarked on an investigation of the condition in its anthropological and historical context. He examined the lesions of dated human remains in an attempt to determine the historical spread of disease. He became particularly interested in its relation to syphilis, classifying bone changes after death from syphilis. His findings have since been used in the debate about the origins of syphilis in Europe and the endemic syphilis of the Near East.

Hackett married Beattie in 1939 and they had two sons. He died of Alzheimer's disease at the age of 89.

Boomerang Leg and Yaws in Australian Aborigines (London, 1936)
Bone Lesions of Yaws in Uganda (London, 1951)
Discussions Actuelles sur l'Origine de la Syphilis ([Paris], 1970)
Diagnostic Criteria of Syphilis, Yaws, and Treponarid (Treponematoses) and of Some Other Diseases in Dry Bones for Use in Osteo-Archaeology (Berlin, 1976)


Scope and content/abstract:

Hackett's papers, 1930-78, include his notes of lectures, attended for the College's membership examinations, 1930-31; List of his published and unpublished works, 1935-78, 1978; Drafts and reprints of articles by Hackett, with annotations and comments by others, such as Satya Swaroop and Calvin Wells, on the subject of syphilis, treponarid, and yaws, especially in Africa, 1957-75; Translations of foreign articles on bone syphilis, 1858-1970, made for and edited by Hackett, [1972]; Paper on the use of food yeast as a nutritional supplement in Indonesia, by Yap Kie Tiong (d.1968/9), sent to Hackett with letter from Yap, 1955-56

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

All requests should be referred to the Archivist

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The collection was donated to the Royal College of Physicians by Hackett, in four deposits, on 1 and 27 August, and 28 November, 1975, and on 25 June 1978.

Allied Materials

Related material:

There is a large amount of Hackett's correspondence, 1931-76, amongst the College's Autographed Letters Collection (ALS). The correspondence is of both a professional and a personal nature, and much covers the subject of his work on yaws and syphilis. Access to some of these letters is restricted, due to sensitive information contained within them;

Hackett's case notes and papers relating to Yaws in Uganda, c.1930-39, are held at the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine. See the National Register of Archives for details.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians of London, continued to 1997, Sarah Jane Gillam and Professor W. Ian McDonald (eds.) (London, 2000) [Munk's Roll, 2000, pp.181-82]; `Obituaries - C.J. Hackett', Richard Hackett, British Medical Journal, 311, 1995, p.682 [BMJ, 1995, p.682]; Historical Manuscripts Commission On-Line National Register of Archives.
Compiled by Katharine Williams

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Compiled May 2003; Modified September 2003

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Personal Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Placename Search

* To search for other records with similar placenames, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"