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William Boog LEISHMAN (1865-1926)

Biographical Details

Professor Sir William Boog Leishman was a distinguished bacteriologist and pathologist whom Arthur Sladden met whilst serving in Rouen.

William Leishman was born in Glasgow on 6th November 1865 and followed his father into medicine, graduating from the University of Glasgow in 1886.  After graduating, Leishman took a commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps.   It was whilst in India that he began his lifelong research into microbiology and public health.  Returning to England to work at the Army Medical School at Netley, he became Assistant Professor of Pathology.

He was knighted in 1909, became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1910, was President of the Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 1911-1912, and honorary physician to King George (1912).  For over a decade, he worked to produce an effective vaccine against typhoid.  When war began in August 1914, 170,000 doses were issued to the troops. It is estimated that, without it, there would have been about 551,000 cases of typhoid and over 77,000 deaths. Thanks to the vaccine, there were only 1,191 deaths from 21,139 cases.

During the war Leishman was the War Office's expert on tropical diseases.  He worked on committees, and with the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders.  He continued to discover more and more about the conditions that affected the troops, including the new ones arising from trench warfare, like trench fever.  His ability to research and apply his knowledge in practical contexts made him especially valuable.

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