Obituary: Emeritus Professor Wallace Peters

Professor Wallace Peters (1924 – 2018)

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Wallace Peters who was head of the Department of Medical Protozoology at the London School of Hygiene Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) from 1979 – 1989.

Professor Peters lived and was educated in London and took his medical degree at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital after pre-clinical training in Cambridge. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1947 – 49, practiced tropical medicine in West and East Africa for two years, was on the World Health Organization (WHO) staff as an entomologist and malariologist in Liberia and Nepal, and then became Assistant Director (malariology) in Papua New Guinea from 1956 – 61.

After five years as Research Associate at CIBA in Basel, where he carried out laboratory research on anti-parasitic drugs, he was appointed to the Walter Myers Chair of Parasitology at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in 1966, including three years as Dean. From here he moved to LSHTM as Professor of Medical Protozoology. After retirement in 1979, he became Director of the Centre for Tropical Antiprotozoal Chemotherapy at the Northwick Park Institute for Medical Research.

Professor Peters’ truly outstanding research was on the chemotherapy of malaria, spanning the greater part of his long career.

Of particular note were his studies on chemotherapy of rodent malarias, a tour de force where he tested both established and novel anti-malarials against a wide range of drug sensitive and drug resistant strains of the malaria species of rodents. From this research it was Peters who first proposed that combination therapy was the best way to avoid the development of drug resistance in the treatment of malaria. This was slow to be accepted but is now considered as the standard, indeed the only way, to use established and novel drugs. Amongst the combination drug studies he pioneered was the proguanil- atovaquone combination (Malarone®) very widely used prophylactically.

Prof Peters’ published books are noteworthy for their comprehensiveness and attention to fine detail, and they quickly became standard works of reference, especially two editions of Chemotherapy and Drug Resistance of Malaria, and the beautifully illustrated atlases of tropical medicine and parasitology (each compiled with a co-author). His own view of this remarkable career is given in an autobiography, Four Passions.

Not surprisingly his expertise was called on repeatedly, in particular the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Malaria (1967 – 2003), and the Steering Committee on Malaria Chemotherapy. He was Director of the Public Health Laboratory Service Malaria Reference Laboratory while Head of Department at LSHTM.

Prof Peters’ outstanding contributions were widely recognized by honours and awards, notably the King Faisal International Prize, the Le Prince Medal from the American Society of Tropical Medicine, and the Emil Brumpt prize from France. He was President of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and the British Society for Parasitology. His was a remarkable contribution to the improvement of drug treatment of malaria and other tropical infections.

Written by Geoff Targett, Emeritus Professor of Immunology of Parasitic Diseases

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