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William Jarrett - healing animals and people

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William 'Bill' Jarrett FRS, FRSE, a veterinary doctor and professor who has died at 83, made such a remarkable study of animals that he identified and created vaccines for deadly illnesses which helped people as well as domestic and farm animals.

Yet how many of us have ever heard of him?

The son of farmers, Bill Jarrett was one of three brothers who became vets. He graduated with the Gold Medal from Glasgow Veterinary College in 1949, and immediately tackled bronchitis in calves, a major illness in Scotland.

His research with William Weipers and a team led to the creation of the successful vaccine Dictol, still in use today, and widely used in Africa. Then Jarrett went to Africa and helped to establish a veterinary school in Nairobi, Kenya, where his brilliant research into the cause of fever in cattle provided the basis for future vaccine developments.

Back in Glasgow and looking into why several cats in a house had developed lymphomas within a short period, Jarrett reasoned that the disease must be contagious and discovered the feline leukaemia virus.

This led to techniques for identifying the virus and to a successful vaccine and eventually had him joining forces with American biomedical researcher Robert Gallo. Their work led to the discovery of the human leukaemia virus and the human immunodeficiency virus which causes AIDs.

Looking into the cause of cancer in Highland cattle, he discovered the activating factor for a papillomavirus, and produced a vaccine. This eventually led to the human papillomavirus vaccine, used to prevent cervical cancer in women.

As Professor of Veterinary Pathology for 22 years at Glasgow, Jarrett was a popular teacher who was very good at communicating complex ideas.

The University of Glasgow and The Scotsman have more details.

Bill Jarrett loved sailing, and mountaineering with his wife in the hills of Scotland. Their two daughters followed in his footsteps and became medical pathologists.

Ave atque Vale.


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