Tyrrell, D.A.J. 1925–2005

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Tyrrell, D.A.J. 1925–2005

(David Arthur John Tyrrell)

PERSONAL: Born June 19, 1925, in Ashford, Middlesex (now Surrey), England; died May 2, 2005, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England; son of Sidney Charles (an accountant) and Agnes Kate (a teacher; maiden name, Blewett) Tyrrell; married Moyra Wylie (a physician), April 15, 1950; children: Frances, Susan, Stephen. Education: University of Sheffield, M.B., Ch.B., M.D. (with honors), 1964. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, music, walking, volunteering for Christian organizations.

CAREER: Sheffield United Hospitals, Sheffield, England, resident registrar, 1950–51; Rockefeller Institute Hospital, New York, NY, assistant physician and resident assistant, 1951–54; Medical Research Council, University of Sheffield Virus Research Laboratory, Sheffield, member of scientific staff, 1954–57, member of Common Cold Unit in Salisbury, England, 1957–62, director, 1982–90; World Health Organization Virus Research Laboratory, director, 1962–90; Clinical Research Center, Harrow, Middlesex, England, head of division of communicable diseases, 1967–84, deputy director, 1970–84; Arthur Sims Commonwealth traveling professor, beginning 1985. Trustee, Nuffield Foundation, 1977–92; chair, advisory committee on dangerous pathogens, 1982–91, and of biological products subcommittee of Committee on Safety of Medicine, until 1993; United Kingdom coordinator for Economic Community working party on AIDS, 1985–91; chair, Spongiform Encephalopathy advisory committee, 1990–95; chair, national task force on chronic fatigue syndrome, post-viral fatigue syndrome, and myalgic encephalomyelitis, 1993–99; chair, Nuffield Inquiry into the Education and Training of Dental Auxiliaries, until 1994; trustee and chair, research committee, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Research Foundation, beginning 2001. Member, World Health Organization expert advisory panel on virus diseases, 1960–2000; steering committee member, Medical Research Council AIDS directed program, until 1994; member of governing body, Animal Virus Disease Research Institute.

MEMBER: International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research (honorary), Royal College of Physicians (fellow), Royal College of Pathologists (fellow), Royal Society (fellow), Association of Physicians, Infectious Disease Society of America (honorary), Australasian Society of Infectious Diseases (honorary), American Association of Physicians (honorary).

AWARDS, HONORS: Stewart Prize, 1977; named Commander, Order of the British Empire, 1980; Ambuj Nath Bose Prize, 1983. D.Sc., University of Sheffield, 1979; D.M., University of Southampton, 1990.


Common Colds and Related Diseases, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1965.

(Editor) Acute Respiratory Diseases: Symposium Organized by the College of Pathologists and Delivered in London in February 1968, Journal of Clinical Pathology (London, England), 1968.

Rhinoviruses (bound with The Simian Viruses by Robert N. Hull), Springer-Verlag (New York, NY), 1968.

Interferon and Its Clinical Potential, Heinemann Medical (London, England), 1976.

Technologies for Rural Health: A Royal Society Discussion Organized by D.A.J. Tyrrell, D.P. Burkitt, and Sir William Henderson, Held on 9 and 10 December 1976, Royal Society (London, England), 1977.

(Editor) Aspects of Slow and Persistent Virus Infections: Proceedings of the European Workshop Sponsored by the Commission of the European Communities on the Advice of the Committee on Medical and Public Health Research, Held in London (U.K.), April 5-6, 1979, Marinus Nijhoff Publishers (Boston, MA), 1979.

Microbial Disease: Diagnosis, Therapy, and Control, 1979.

(With Sir William Henderson and Katherine Elliott) More Technologies for Rural Health: A Royal Society Discussion, Royal Society (London, England), 1980.

(Editor, with Albert Z. Kapikian) Virus Infections of the Gastrointestinal Tract, M. Dekker (New York, NY), 1982.

The Abolition of Infection: Hope or Illusion?, Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust (London, England), 1982.

(With D.C. Burke) Interferon: Twenty-five Years On: Proceedings of a Royal Society Discussion Meeting Held on 24 and 25 February 1982, Royal Society (London, England), 1982.

(With Michael Fielder) Cold Wars: The Fight against the Common Cold, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to professional journals.

SIDELIGHTS: Virologist and researcher D.A.J. Tyrrell was the head of Britain's Common Cold Research Unit for many decades until it closed in 1990 because of funding problems. Although people might complain that during all that time a cure for the common cold was never found, it is important to note the many scientific advances made there over the years. Tyrrell and his team were the first to grow cold viruses under laboratory conditions, where they could identify their biological structures, and they learned that colds are caused not by one, but by over two hundred different viruses. Because of this, it is unlikely that an effective cure will ever be formulated.

Tyrrell, who also enjoyed a long career with the World Health Organization's Virus Research Laboratory and the Clinical Research Center in Harrow, England, records his experiences and provides a history of the common cold in Cold Wars: The Fight against the Common Cold, written with Michael Fielder and published just three years before Tyrrell's death. Cold Wars not only discusses the story of the Cold Research Unit, but also relates the history of the common cold all the way back to the Egyptians. It then moves ahead to the twentieth century to discuss all the varieties of treatments that have been tried. "The remaining chapters," related John Treanor in his New England Journal of Medicine review, "include discussions of the various philosophies of how science should be funded," as well as information about research techniques, some background history on the World Health Organization, and "interesting anecdotes about the experiences of the volunteers" who allowed themselves to be infected for science.

Hugh Pennington, writing in the British Journal for the History of Science, felt that while the book "puts the Unit's work into the broader context of research on respiratory viruses," he had an issue with the upbeat tone of the book. The work fails to relate the sometimes acrimonious clash of egos that occurred between scientists at the Cold Research Unit, according to Pennington, adding that "Cold Wars is, then, a nice book about nice people. But it tells an incomplete story." Many other reviewers, though, were very receptive to the book. Lancet contributors Robert and John Macfarlane, for example, described it as a "passionate, wry, and neatly written book." Writing in the British Medical Journal, Harold Ellis concluded that "coctors, related professionals, and interested lay readers will find much to fascinate them in this book. It illustrates beautifully the vagaries, difficulties, false pathways, raised hopes, crashing disappointments, tedium, and all too rare but wonderful moments of medical research."



Tyrell, D.A.J., and Michael Fielder, Cold Wars: The Fight against the Common Cold, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.


British Journal of the History of Science, September, 2004, Hugh Pennington, review of Cold Wars, p. 362.

British Medical Journal, January 4, 2003, Harold Ellis, review of Cold Wars, p. 57.

Lancet, December 21, 2002, Robert Macfarlane and John Macfarlane, "Wrestling with the Rhinovirus," review of Cold Wars, p. 2094.

Nature, March 27, 2003, Nigel Dimmock, review of Cold Wars, p. 379.

New England Journal of Medicine, January 29, 2004, John Treanor, review of Cold Wars, p. 522.



Lancet, June 18, 2005, p. 2084.

Times (London, England), May 18, 2005, p. 60.


News Backup.com, http://www.newsbackup.com/ (May 30, 2005).