Nobel Prize Winner William Campbell returns to his alma mater
Posted on: 30 September 2016
Nobel Prize winner and Trinity graduate, Professor William Campbell paid a historic visit to his alma mater, Trinity College Dublin, today
He was welcomed at a special reception hosted by Trinity Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast, who announced a new lectureship in parasite biology in honour of the great scientist at the event.
In an emotional address, Professor Campbell spoke fondly of Trinity:“One of the first letters I sent home when I crossed the seas said that there’s no other university I would rather have been to. “
It is a year since Professor Campbell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his development of the drug Ivermectin that has almost eradicated river blindness. His discovery has had a massive impact on world health, saving millions of people from diseases caused by parasites.
Professor Campbell’s interest in parasitology first started in Trinity where he studied zoology and where he was inspired by his professor and well-known parasitologist, Desmond Smyth.
He has said about Professor Smyth that he “changed my life by developing my interest in this particular field ? parasitic worms”. The young Campbell went on to get a first class honours degree in zoology, graduating in 1952.
Welcoming the great Nobel Laureate, Provost, Dr Prendergast said: “I am delighted to welcome Professor Campbell back to Trinity and acknowledge his achievement among friends and colleagues. His life has been an exemplary journey of science: From his time as a Trinity undergraduate getting interested in parasitic worms in the early 1950s; to his discovery with scientist, Satoshi Omura of Ivermectin in the 1970s; to persuading Merck in 1987 to distribute the drug free in some of the poorest areas of the world. Professor Campbell has demonstrated the sense of the possibility of science which has been nothing short of inspirational and altruistic.”
The new lectureship in parasitology will be appropriately based in the Zoology Department where his interest and love for the area first began. It is hoped that the lectureship position will be destined for another outstanding parasitologist.
Professor in Zoology, Celia Holland said: “We in Zoology are delighted and proud that the tradition of parasitology, in both teaching and research, will continue with the creation of the ‘William C. Campbell lectureship in Parasite Biology’.”
“Bill’s achievement has been fundamentally important to the whole issue of these diseases which were forgotten. They were the diseases of forgotten people, they were diseases of the disadvantaged and now they’re coming into the light.,” added Professor Holland.
She concluded by quoting renowned US scientist John Janovy Jnr in saying parasitologists are like coyotes: adaptable, cunning and resourceful. “In the most respectful sense, I salute the greatest coyote.”
Professor Campbell was accompanied by his family during the visit. This is the second visit by Professor Campbell in recent years. He was conferred with an honorary degree by Trinity in 2012.
Professor Campbell’s described his life long research of worms with deep attachment, mixed with some humour:“I feel so strongly about them, I write poems about them, I paint pictures of them. Worms are brilliant. I just think they’re wonderful, they have incredible diversity and in fact I have no problem reconciling the fact that I love worms but have spent half my life trying to kill them.”