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Wellcome Witnesses to Twentieth Century Medicine

In 1990 the Wellcome Trust created a History of Twentieth Century Medicine Group, as part of the Academic Unit of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, primarily to bring together clinicians, scientists, historians and others interested in contemporary medical history.

The Wellcome Witness Seminars were introduced to promote interaction between these different groups, and to encourage the creation and deposit of archival sources for present and future use. Seminars are designed to raise issues and record the enormous and most recent advances in research and medicine, and over 30 have been organised since their inception in 1993. The transcripts of the resulting debates are being published, thus preserving an invaluable record of twentieth-century medicine in the making.

From October 2000, the Academic Unit was further developed as the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London, to enjoy a more formal academic affiliation.

Wellcome Witnesses Seminar Transcript Series
Volume 13


Wellcome Witnesses Seminar Volume 13
Population-based Research in South Wales: The MRC Pneumoconiosis Research Unit and the MRC Epidemiology Unit. (Nov. 2002) Edited by Ness A.R., Reynolds L.A. and Tansey E.M. Introduction by George Davey Smith.
ISBN 0-854-84081-8


25th Anniversary MRC Epidemiology Unit
Staff of the MRC Epidemiology Unit gathered to celebrate the Unit's 25th anniversary. Note the bust of Archie Cochrane taking pride of place in the foreground. Unfortunately, Archie was too ill to attend the event

Group with Archie Cochrane
Archie pictured with co-workers, friends and their families. Archie is third from the right (in the white shirt). Third on the left is Martin Wright, inventor of the breathalyzer and peakflow meter.

Population-based research in South Wales was carried out initially to investigate occupational lung disease in miners. Archie Cochrane conducted respiratory and blood pressure surveys of workers in the Welsh valleys, based at the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit at Llandough Hospital (now University Hospital Llandough), Penarth, Cardiff.

In 1960, studies began in the new Epidemiological Research Unit (South Wales) in Cardiff on glaucoma, dust diseases in flax, asbestos, steel and slate workers, with later work on iron deficiency anaemia, environmental lead, migraine and asthma. Two high-profile trials showed improved survival following a heart attack with regular use of aspirin and with consumption of a diet rich in oily fish.

Statisticians and field workers made important contributions to both randomised controlled trials and observational studies at the Epidemiological Research Unit over five decades.

Volume 13 includes interviews with former members of both Units and a section on the impact on data analysis from the steadily increasing computational capacity.

Contributors include:

  • Dr Michael Burr
  • Professor Richard Doll (Chair)
  • Dr Peter Elwood
  • Dr Philip D’Arcy Hart
  • Dr Julian Tudor Hart
  • Mrs Janie Hughes
  • Dr Philip Hugh-Jones
  • Mrs Marion Jones
  • Professor Stewart Kilpatrick
  • Dr Bill Miall
  • Professor John Pemberton
  • Dr Selwyn St Leger
  • Mr Peter Sweetnam
  • Professor Owen Wade
  • Professor Estlin Waters
  • Dr John Yarnell