A life in parasitology: donations from Professor Wallace Peters

Professor Wallace Peters (b.1924) has been a leading figure in the fight against malaria. Early in 2017, the RCP library, archive and museum team was delighted that he offered us a selection of items from his working life to enhance our collections.

We were delighted to visit Professor Peters at his home in the summer to collect the donation and to hear more about his life and work. The donation comprised a medal, letters, photographs, published articles and books, which have now been formally added to our collections and catalogued by our curatorial staff. The library and archive materials are now available as part of the research collections.

Kristin Hussey, curator, with Professor Wallace Peters, 2017.

Peters studied medicine in London, specialising in tropical medicine. He was elected a fellow of the RCP in 1978, and during his career was dean of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, head of the medical protozoology department at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and president of the British Society for Parasitology.

In 2013 Peters spoke to Medicines for Malaria Venture about his career working to combat malaria. His interview covers how his interest in malaria to an early interest in natural history and parasites in particular, and how the two times he himself fell ill with malaria influenced his understanding of the impact of his research. He also talks about the strengths and limitations of malaria eradication campaigns over time, including the negative effects of drug resistance, social structures. Asked if total malaria eradication can be achieved, he comments that:

Nothing is impossible … it needs patience, it needs a long period of time, and the acceptance that you cannot run before you can walk. And we’re still at the stage of learning how to walk.

Professor Wallace Peters - Is eradication possible? What role do medicines play?. Interview with Medicines for Malaria Venture.

Peters has been awarded many prizes and medals, including the Rudolf Leuckart Medal (1980), the Joseph Augustin LePrince Medal (1994), the Sir Patrick Manson Medal (2004). In 1983, Peters was awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine in recognition of his contribution to the control of malaria. This gold medal was part of his donation to the RCP, and has now been added to the museum collection.

The archives have received a collection of correspondence and ephemera mainly relating to Peters’ nomination for, and acceptance of, the King Faisal International Prize. There are also some photographs and articles from other points in Peters’ career.

Books authored by Peters – including his Chemotherapy and drug resistance in malaria and Colour atlas of tropical medicine and parasitology – have been added to the library. These have been joined by around 680 papers from journals and conference proceedings concerning malaria, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis and other related topics. The papers had been carefully arranged and bound together according to date and subject, and the majority of them were authored, or co-authored, by Peters himself.

The RCP library, archive and museum accept donations according to their specific collection development policies. Please email history@rcplondon.ac.uk for more information.

Katie Birkwood, rare books librarian

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