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DURHAM, Herbert Edward (1866-1945)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0809 Durham
Held at: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
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Full title: DURHAM, Herbert Edward (1866-1945)
Date(s): 1901-1908
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 file, 2 envelopes
Name of creator(s): Durham | Herbert Edward | 1866-1945 | medical scientist
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Herbert Edward Durham was born in 1866 and was the son of A E Durham, once senior surgeon to Guy's Hospital and grandson of William Ellis, the economist. Durham was educated at University College School and King's College, Cambridge, and obtained a first class in both parts of the Natural Science Tripos in 1890.

In 1894 Durham passed FRCS and then won a Gull studentship on which he went to Vienna to work in the Grubler's hygiene laboratory. While there, his attention was drawn to the diagnostic value of agglutination in the serum of animals protected by prophylactic inoculations. In 1896, this reaction was applied to typhoid, when at first it was known as the Grubler-Durham reaction, but the title was later changed to that of the Widal reaction. In that year he also became a member of the Royal Society's Committee on disease spread by tsetse flies. In 1897 he produced the universally used and famous Durham tubes to measure the amount of gas produced in culture by bacteria.

In 1900 he led an expedition to Brazil organised by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to study yellow fever and between 1901 and 1903 he undertook an expedition with Dr P T Manson to Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean, but this was marred by the tragedy of his young colleague's death.

From Malaya he brought back the roots of Derris elliptica which were found to possess definite insecticidal properties and it seems that Durham was the first to draw attention to this phenomenon. In 1905 he forsook medicine to become supervisor of the laboratories of Messrs H P Bulmer & Co of Hereford who were engaged in brewing cider. Thereafter for thirty years he worked at the problems of fermentation, and was hardly ever seen in medical circles. In 1935 he retired to Cambridge, to his garden where he tended strange plants and herbs, many of when he had originally introduced into this country. Durham died in 1945.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Herbert Edward Durham, 1901-1908, comprise reports, 1902-1903 and correspondence, 1901-1908 concerning beriberi on Christmas Island and the Malay States.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged into two series: reports and correspondence.

Conditions governing access:

This collection is open for consultation. Please contact the Archivist to arrange an appointment. All researchers must complete and sign a user registration form which signifies their agreement to abide by the archive rules. All researchers are required to provide proof of identity bearing your signature (for example, a passport or debit card) when registering. Please see website for further information at

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Archivist.

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

Correspondence 1932-1943, Library and Archives, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, (NRA 25004) Royal Botanic Garden. Letters (19) to EF Bulmer, 1890-1895, Kings College Archive Centre, Cambridge University, (NRA 33377 Bulmer).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Victoria Killick, Archivist and edited by Samantha Velumyl, AIM25 cataloguer. Source: History of the School of Tropical Medicine in London (1899-1949) by Sir Philip Manson-Bahr, 1956, H K Lewis & Co Ltd, London.

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:
February 2008

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