Peter Wildy: a short history

Peter Wildy: a short history

Early years

Peter Wildy (1920-1987) was first educated at Eastbourne College and went on to study medicine at the University of Cambridge and St Thomas's Hospital Medical School in London. He qualified with a Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons and Licentiate diploma (MRCS LRCP) in 1944 and Bachelor of Medicine, Standard Clinical Course (MB BChir) in 1948.

His earlier work was on bacteriology, but he quickly developed an interest in virology and after spending some time at the Institute for Medical Research in Melbourne, he carried out some pioneering genetic experiments with viruses

Education

By 1959 he had set up a new Institute of Virology at the University of Glasgow, UK and acted as Senior Lecturer. As well as founding the institute he is also one of the original members of the country’s first major schools of research on herpes viruses. At this point he had established himself as a distinguished virologist and a charismatic teacher.

In 1963, Peter became Professor of Virology and Bacteriology at the University of Birmingham, where he put together an excellent herpes virology team. Clearly, the housekeeping chores of a university department occupied a lot of his time, but he still had the vision to introduce an MSc course in virology which was copied by several other universities.

Image credit: Science Photo Library

A new journal

In 1963, Peter became Professor of Virology and Bacteriology at the University of Birmingham, where he put together an excellent herpes virology team. Clearly, the housekeeping chores of a university department occupied a lot of his time, but he still had the vision to introduce an MSc course in virology which was copied by several other universities.

At this time, he also started with Colin Kaplan a new journal, Journal of General Virology, which from its humble beginnings in 1967 became a well-established and well-regarded addition to the virology scene. As though that was not enough, together with Joseph Melnick of the USA he initiated the International Congresses of Virology.

Legacy

Due to his many contributions to microbiology, Peter was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1962. He served on the board of the Public Health Laboratory Service, as well as being an adviser to the World Health Organisation and a member of several governing bodies of research council institutes. His wide knowledge and equable personality led to his chairing many (perhaps too many) committees involved in rationalising British microbiology. 

In May 2000, the Society announced the launch of the Peter Wildy Prize Lecture, which would recognize individuals that had provided an outstanding contribution to microbiology education and communication in order to stimulate interest and understanding in the subject. 

Image credit: Wellcome Collection