Professor Jeremy Morris, CBE
Public Orator, Professor Adrianne E Hardman, presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Congregation held on the afternoon of Monday 16 December 2002.
Jerry Morris qualified in medicine
in 1934 and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Second World
War, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. When peace returned, he
was appointed Director of the Medical Research Councils Social Medicine
Unit, a post which he held for 27 years. During this period he was first
Professor of Social Medicine at the London Hospital Medical College and
then Professor of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical
Medicine. As Emeritus Professor and Honorary Research Fellow at the London
School, he is still an active member of their Health Promotion Research
His interest in exercise and heart
disease developed in the context of post-war aspirations to build a better
world. Public health was changing to focus on chronic, non-communicable
diseases and the modification of individual behaviour. Professor Morriss
work, alongside that of Doll and Hill on smoking and lung cancer, was
instrumental in defining this new vision of public health.
He and his colleagues first showed
that physical activity can protect against heart attack through studies
of men engaged in a variety of occupations. In seminal papers published
in 1953, they reported that conductors working on Londons double-decker
buses experienced less than half the incidence of heart attacks as the
sedentary drivers. (The conductors climbed around 600 stairs per working
day; the drivers sat for 90% of their shift.) These findings were confirmed
in other groups: postmen who walked or cycled carrying the mail experienced
fewer heart attacks than sedentary telephonists and clerks. Professor
Morris was imaginative in the design of subsequent studies which confirmed
that the lower incidence of heart attack in men engaged in physically
active jobs was not due to co-existing characteristics leaner physiques,
for example. London Transport Authority provided information on the size
of trousers supplied to their staff. Trouser waistbands (a surrogate measure
for what we now call central obesity) were indeed smaller
in the conductors but their protection against heart attack could not
be explained by their relative leanness; these active men had a low risk
of attack whether they were slim, average or portly.
By the 1960s it was evident that if
physical activity were to contribute to the prevention of coronary heart
disease, it would have to be through participation during leisure time
physically active jobs were disappearing fast. Professor Morris
thus embarked on a new prospective study of physical activity and other
lifestyle characteristics in 18 000 men in sedentary jobs in the civil
service. These men were followed for 8 years. Detailed analysis of the
mountain of data generated showed that men who engaged in energetic, regular,
aerobic exercise (not only sports but also cycling, swimming, fast walking)
were only half as likely to have a heart attack as other men.
Subsequent studies by Morris and by
others, in different populations world-wide and over a period of more
than 50 years, have confirmed that the postponement of cardiovascular
disease through exercise represents a cause and effect relationship. For
his unique contribution, Jeremy Morris was in 1996 awarded the first International
Olympic medal and prize for research in exercise sciences.
Professor Morriss contribution
to public health in this country goes way beyond his personal research
agenda. A lifelong advocate for public health, he has worked tirelessly
to promote policies to prevent chronic diseases, to promote good health
and to overcome social factors that predispose to disease. He has served
on the Working Party on Inequalities in Health, on Royal College of Physicians
Committees on Smoking and on Air Pollution and been an expert adviser
to the World Health Organisation since 1954. As Chairman of the Fitness
and Health Advisory Board to the Health Education Authority and the Sports
Council, he initiated and led the English National Fitness Survey which
was published in 1992.
Early on, he recognised the importance
of the media presentation of the public health case without information,
how can people understand the impact of personal behaviour on health?
Professor Morriss gift for communicating much meaning through a
few words helps him to command the attention of media, scientists, clinicians
and the lay person alike. One of the most memorable and influential
appears in the title of a paper published in 1994 Exercise:
todays best buy in public health.
Chancellor, I therefore present Jeremy N Morris CBE , MA, MRCS, LRCP, MRCP, DPH, DSc to you, and to the University, for the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.
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