Day School in St Albans


On Saturday 4th October 2014 I will be teaching a day school at Verulamium Museum in St Albans – A Dozen People Who Changed What We Eat.

The course will deal with developments in food production, shopping and cooking between the 1770s and the 1970s.   It  will feature some of the people mentioned in this blog, such as Elizabeth Raffald, Joseph Lyons and Mrs and Mrs Sainsbury.  Thanks to the Wellcome Library it will include a showing of my favourite foodie film, Enough to Eat.  Made in 1936 this film draws on the work of some of the leading nutritional scientists of the era including Professor Sir Gowland Hopkins, Cambridge University and Sir John Boyd Orr, Director, Rowett Institute.

Tickets cost £25 and must be bought in advance.  Tickets include entry to the Museum.  Coffee and tea will be provided.  The course will run 10am – 2pm.  To book a place email me sue.davies@stalbans.gov.uk or call 01727 751810.

Food, Health and Income


John Boyd Orr (1880-1971) was a Scottish nutritional scientist, farmer and campaigner. He is a food hero because he engaged with the political world and used his scientific knowledge to improve global nutrition, which is why he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949.

Born in Ayrshire he trained as a doctor at Glasgow University where he won a gold medal for his thesis. In 1913 he was appointed to oversee the development of a new research institute at Aberdeen University. This project was interrupted by the First World War during which he served in the Army as a doctor and was at the battles of the Somme and Passchendaele. Returning to Aberdeen in 1919 he used his considerable financial and persuasive skills to develop the Rowett Institute which was carrying out research into animal nutrition.

He was asked by the British government to investigate the idea of a national food policy and the resulting report, Food, Health and Income, was published in 1937. It made uneasy reading for those in government. It mustered considerable research to demonstrate that many people in Britain were simply too poor to eat a nourishing diet. The report stated,
“… a diet completed adequate for health according to modern standards is reached only at an income level above that of 50% of the population.” John Boyd Orr, Food, Health and Income, MacMillian, p.44

During World War Two he advised Lord Woolton and helped shape the wartime diet for the better. In 1945 he retired as the Director of the Rowett Institute and began a new international career becoming as the first Director General of the Food and Agricultural Organisation. He proposed a World Food Board to distribute food to where it was needed. It was an ambitious plan and when it failed Orr resigned in disappointment. It may have been a Utopian plan but you have to love him for trying.