OBITUARIES : Professor P. C. C. Garnham

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The Independent Online
On P. C. C. Garnham's 90th birthday, he was described as the greatest living parasitologist. With his death, on Christmas Day, three weeks before his 94th birthday and six days before his 70th wedding anniversary, an era has passed.

Cyril Garnham will go down in history as the co-discoverer of the stage of malaria parasites which remains hidden in the liver from the time a patient is bitten by a mosquito until the blood is invaded. In a series of brilliant experiments in the late Forties and early Fifties, at first in collaboration with Professor H. E. Shortt FRS, he demonstrated these forms first in monkey malaria and then, with gallant volunteers, in human malaria. This, however, was only part of his research and parasitologists will remember him for his published work on an astonishing range of parasites including many which are of no direct medical importance. Parasitism is a common way of life and he firmly believed that it was impossible to be a parasitologist by studying only the comparatively few parasites of man.

Garnham graduated in medicine at Bart's Hospital, in London, in 1925. He then joined the Colonial Service and worked in Kenya for 22 years. After a somewhat boring start in public health, he became the first Director of the then Division of Insect Borne Diseases, Nairobi, where he worked on river blindness, plague, relapsing fever and malaria. On leaving the Colonial Service in 1947, he was appointed Reader, and later Professor, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where his discoverieson the life cycle of malaria parasites were made. Dozens of postgraduate students flocked from all corners of the world to study under his guidance. He had a knack of choosing students and assistants and recognising their hidden talents and potential. He then set them seemingly impossible tasks which, to their surprise, they somehow accomplished. As they grew in stature, the bond between them and their master became unbreakable.

On retiring from the School in 1968, Garnham was appointed a Senior Research Fellow at Imperial College where he continued working full time for 12 more years. He believed that all biology depended upon a sound foundation of taxonomy and spent these years amassing a unique collection of type specimens of nearly 200 species of malaria parasites of man, other mammals, birds and reptiles. This collection, beautifully catalogued in collaboration with Dr A. J. Duggan, is now in the Natural History Museum, London. On his third retirement in 1980, he began writing a book on Edgar Allan Poe which was almost completed by the time he died. Literature and music were among his passions and throughout his life he played the piano, including while in Kenya where hisspecial baby grand, built for a tropical climate, accompanied him everywhere.

In the last half of his life, Garnham was showered with honours, the most valued of which was his election to Fellowship of the Royal Society. His reserved and courteous manner hid a warm personality, a love of people and a delightful sense of humour. His assistants and students loved him and many learnt to imitate his high-pitched voice with uncanny accuracy. They will always remember his enthusiasm and determination and, above all, how he could make research work so exciting.

R. Killick-Kendrick

Percy Cyril Claude Garnham, parasitologist: born London 15 January 1901; Colonial Medical Service 1925-47; Reader, then Professor of Parasitology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 1947-68, Head of Department of Parasitology 1952-68, Honorary Fellow 1976-94; Professor of Medical Protozoology, London University 1952-68 (Emeritus); CMG 1964; FRS 1964; Senior Research Fellow, Imperial College of Science and Technology 1968-79, Hon Fellow 1979-94; married 1924 Esther Long Price (two sons, fourdaughters); died 25 December 1994.