Professor Ian McIntyre: Glasgow vet who served in Africa
Friday 20 June 2008
There cannot be many veterinary surgeons who have found themselves transported from academic life in Glasgow to conduct research in a tsetse fly-infested part of West Africa at the behest of a head of state. That was what happened to Ian McIntyre, of Glasgow University Veterinary School when in 1973 he was asked by Sir Dawda Jawara, Gambia's president, to look into the problem of trypanosomiasis in cattle – one of the few indigenous resources of that country. The cattle who survive the disease are left weak and emaciated, with low milk production and poor performance as draft animals. Trypanosomiasis, spread by the tsetse fly, is also the cause of sleeping sickness in humans.
That first visit led ultimately to the setting up in 1982 of the International Trypanotolerance Centre at Banjul, with funding from the UK, the FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN), the EU and the African Development Bank. Today, the centre makes an important contribution to the food security, economic status and welfare of the people in West Africa through its wide-ranging programmes across the field of animal health and production. McIntyre was closely involved in the planning of the site and the laboratories and, after his retirement from Glasgow, was director of the ITC from 1984 to 1989.
McIntyre's link with the Gambia came about from Jawara's time as a student vet at Glasgow, where he had trained before entering politics. McIntyre's own introduction to Africa went back to 1963, when he was one of a team from Glasgow seconded to develop the veterinary school at the new University of East Africa in Nairobi. Appointed Dean of the veterinary faculty, he forged a disparate group of local vets and teachers from the Geissen and Colorado veterinary schools (as well as from Glasgow) into the academic team of a first-class institution. The faculty was officially opened by the then president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, in 1966.
Before his international career, Ian McIntyre had established himself as an outstanding veterinary clinician, teacher and researcher. His interest in animals was sparked by his upbringing as the son of the gamekeeper of a large Highland estate. But his career plans received a setback when, just before he was due to enter the Royal (Dick) Veterinary School, Edinburgh, he was involved in a serious car accident which left him in hospital for a year and with a legacy of leg problems. To make matters worse, his father died during his convalescence: the estate owner came to the rescue and supported young Ian's veterinary studies.
He proved a brilliant student and after graduating from Edinburgh he was invited to join the staff. He ran the school's small animal clinic, at the same time pursuing research into leptospirosis in the dog, a project which gained him his PhD.
His talents were spotted by Professor (later Sir) William Weipers, head of the Glasgow veterinary school, who was in the process of modernising what had become a rather outdated establishment. So in 1951 McIntyre took over the Department of Veterinary Medicine. His reorganisation of the department and revolutionary approach to clinical teaching, coupled with co-operation with Glasgow's highly successful new pathology department, built up the Glasgow school's reputation for ground-breaking research projects and excellence in teaching.
One fruit of this endeavour was the introduction, after trials involving 8,000 calves from over 200 farms, of Dictol, an effective vaccine against the parasitic bronchitis produced by lungworm in cattle ("husk"). Prepared from live Dictyocaulus viviparous, irradiated with X-rays, it remains the only successful live metozoal vaccine.
McIntyre served on the council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons from 1974 to 1983, during which period he was active in the successful fight against proposals to cut the number of veterinary schools in the UK. Away from his professional activities, he was keenly interested in sport. He enjoyed motor rallying in Scotland and took part, driving a Mini Cooper S, in the East African Safaris of 1965 and 1966. He encouraged his three sons to sail; one of them (Michael) won a gold medal in the Seoul Olympics. Ian McIntyre created a fine garden at his house on the shores of Gareloch.
William Ian Mackay McIntyre, veterinary teacher, scientist and administrator: born Altnaharra, Sutherland 7 July 1919; Clinical Assistant, Royal (Dick) Veterinary College, Edinburgh 1944-48, Lecturer 1948-51; Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Medicine, Glasgow University 1951-61, Professor 1961-83 (Emeritus), seconded as Dean, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of East Africa 1963-67; Director, International Trypanotolerance Centre, The Gambia 1984-89; CBE 1990; married 1948 Ruth Galbraith (died 2007; three sons), 2007 Elizabeth Hunter; died Shandon, Dunbartonshire 20 March 2008.
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