Nigerian Medical Journal

: 2011  |  Volume : 52  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 278-

Finding Maurice Pappworth

Allan Gaw 
 Centre for Public Health, Institute of Clinical Sciences, Block B, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast BT12 6BJ, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Allan Gaw
Centre for Public Health, Institute of Clinical Sciences, Block B, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast BT12 6BJ
United Kingdom

How to cite this article:
Gaw A. Finding Maurice Pappworth.Niger Med J 2011;52:278-278

How to cite this URL:
Gaw A. Finding Maurice Pappworth. Niger Med J [serial online] 2011 [cited 2020 Jul 7 ];52:278-278
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Maurice Henry Pappworth (1910-1994) was, by any standard, a controversial figure. As a life-long outsider he chose an unconventional career path as a private medical tutor rather than accept anything less than his first job choice - a consultant post in a London teaching hospital. This story is not in itself remarkable; many are disappointed in their careers and are forced to reconsider their options. What Pappworth did, however, was to excel in his role as a tutor, helping more than 1600 junior doctors to pass the grueling MRCP in postwar London. Many of these candidates were from Australasia, Canada, India, and West Africa and some have already written about their experiences. [1]

Pappworth's legacy, however, does not rest solely with this facilitation of young physicians to achieve their professional goals. His other major contribution, and one which has neither been fully documented nor appreciated, is his contribution to the development of medical research ethics. Pappworth was a whistle-blower and his 1967 book, Human Guinea Pigs, [2] is now regarded as a major milestone on the journey toward the modern system of research ethics committee review.

In my role as Director of the Glasgow Clinical Research Facility I have been involved for a number of years in teaching healthcare professionals about the conduct of clinical research. While working on a recent book on the history of clinical trials [3] I encountered Pappworth for the first time and have been interested in his story ever since. I feel strongly that his contributions need to be reevaluated and to this end I am now working on his biography.

I never met my subject and must rely on those who did, which is why I am now writing this letter. There are many West African physicians who attended Pappworth's classes in his Harley St. consulting rooms in the 1950-1970s, and I would very much like to hear their memories of the man and his methods. If you were one of Pappworth's students and would be willing to share your memories with me please consider contacting me by e-mail at or by post at the address below.

Any historical research will only ever be as good as its sources. First-hand accounts of those who were actually there will always trump any others, and it is by speaking to those who worked closely with him that I hope to find Pappworth and offer him the reassessment I feel he deserves.


1Watson MH. Maurice Henry Pappworth MRCP (1936) FRCP (1993). Fellowship Affairs Apr, 29-31. RACP, Sydney; 1997.
2Pappworth MH. Human Guinea Pigs: Experimentation on man. London: Routledge; 1967.
3Gaw A. Trial by Fire: Lessons from the history of clinical trials. Glasgow: SA Press; 2009.