hartlepool history logo

Sir Edward Mellanby


Edward Mellanby was born in West Hartlepool the youngest of six children whose father, John Mellanby, was a manager of a shipyard for the Furness and Withy Shipbuilding Company. Edward was educated first Avenue Road School in West Hartlepool and then at Barnard Castle School where he showed both great athletic and scholastic prowess.  In 1902 he left for Cambridge where he studied physiology. Between 1905 and 1907 he became a research student of Emmanuel College and published his first paper in 1908.  Edward then went to St Thomas’s Hospital in London to do his medical training and was a demonstrator in physiology from 1909 to 1911. In 1913 he took on the role of lecturer and later became Professor of Physiology at King’s College for Women. In 1920 he became the first occupant of the Chair of Pharmacology at the University of Sheffield while, at the same time, he was appointed Honorary Physician at the Sheffield Royal Infirmary. In 1933 Edward was made Secretary to the Committee of Privy Council for Medical Research and Secretary of the Medical Research Council for whom he worked until his retirement in 1949.

During the 16 years he worked for the Medical Research Council he also carried on his own personal research at his laboratory in Sheffield where he studied the science of nutrition. This included nutrition deficiencies and the effects of various toxins in foods and the benefit of vitamins, mainly on the once common disorder of rickets.  His findings into experiments with dogs who were given a restricted diet and kept indoors developed rickets but were then fed cod liver oil and recovered. These findings were published in the medical journal Lancet in 1919 and led to the discovery that rickets was caused by a lack of sunlight which resulted in a deficiency of vitamin D. He also studied the effect of alcohol on the brain and his findings became known as the Mellanby Effect. His work in this and other areas saw him become one of the founders of the Nutrition Society.

When Edward died suddenly of heart failure in 1955 there was great accolade for his achievements during his lifetime. He was knighted in 1937 and gained many letters after his name, GBE, KCB, MD, FRCP and FRS. He also could boast numerous publications which contributed greatly to the understanding of the importance of nutrition.

Donated by Richard Mellanby BSc BVMS PhD DSAM DipECVIM-CA MRCVS

Related items :