George Macdonald Urquhart

Pioneering Veterinary Parasitologist
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George was born in Glasgow on the 29th May 1925. On graduating from the Glasgow Veterinary College as the gold medallist in 1947, George Urquhart was awarded a scholarship to work with Dr E L Taylor, in the parasitology department at Weybridge. He returned to Glasgow in 1949 as one of the group of men who were given the task of taking the old Glasgow college into a university system. George played a leading role in the development and recognition of the Glasgow school as aveterinary research institution of international standing.

One of George’s major early interests was parasitic bronchitis for which, at that time, there was no satisfactory treatment. He noticed that the disease was not seen in older cattle and considered that the best approach to control lay in immunisation. After unsuccessful attempts to immunise with extracts of adult and larval lungworms, he found a research paper from theUSA in which the author had been able to attenuate a worm of rats using X-rays. With his colleagues Bill Jarrett, Bill Mulligan, Ian McIntyre and Frank Jennings, George applied this technique to the cattle lungworm. As a result the Dictol vaccine was created and became the biggest selling biological product in farm animals in the UK. In the past 40 years millions of doses of the vaccine have been produced and it remains the only commercially available vaccine against a parasitic worm.

In 1957 George moved to Kenya where he worked on a range of parasitic diseases, with a special interest in bovine cysticercosis. On his return from Kenya in the early 1960s he and his colleagues carried out in-depth studies of parasitic gastritis in cattle. In 1964 the Wellcome Trust supported the construction of laboratories at Bearsden which became the base for George Urquhart’s scientific activities over the next 26 years. In 1979, the first and only Chair of Veterinary Parasitology in the UK was created at Glasgow to which George Urquhart was rightly appointed.

George’s love affair with Africa continued beyond his retirement when he agreed to take up an appointment for one year as director general of the International Trypanotolerance Centre in the Gambia, which was at a crucial point in its development.

George was President of the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology from 1985 to 1989 and was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in1990. He was also an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and an honorary member of the British Society of Parasitology.

Sailing was George’s love throughout most of his life. During the 20 years he lived in Helensburgh, he was able to enjoy the sailing opportunities that the area provided. The freedom and fresh air of the sea supplied George with the space and time to develop many of his ideas.

He was described as an ’Intellectual Giant’.

George died on the 11th January 1997.

Based upon an article from The Veterinary Record