International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine


    Category Institutional Archive
    Organization Wellcome Institute
    Country United Kingdom
    Address 183 Euston Road, London. UK


    The Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine holds manuscripts and secondary material on leprosy. The library holds the manuscript collections of Sir Leonard Rogers (1868-1962), of LEPRA (The British Empire Leprosy Relief Association), of Stanley Browne (1907-1986), and of the Strangeways Research Laboratory (formerly the Cambridge Research Hospital).

    There are twelve boxes belonging to the collection of Sir Leonard Rogers. These are listed and indexed.

    There are thirty-one oversize boxes belonging to the LEPRA collection. There is a list of the boxes. The documents in this collection date from the 1960s. These boxes include records on leprosy work in the following: India (Vellore, Dichpali, Karur, Rishikesh, Meerut, Bomlep, and the temporary partnership between LEPRA and the Damien Foundation), Malawi Project Reports (including Blantyre, Utale/Balaka, Likwenu, Malindi/Likwenu, Malamulo, Kochirra, Mua, Chilumba, and the work of MALEPRA 1963-1993), Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Zambia, Nigeria (including East Central State, Ilorin and North Eastern State, Maiduguri, Abakaliki, Ogoja, Oji River, Ossiomo, Zaria, Adamawa Provincial Leprosarium, North East State). There are overseas tour reports from the directors as well as tours undertaken by Dr Wheatley (Nigeria and East Central Nigeria 1971-1972), Dr McDougall (Guyana 1975), and Dr Browne (Malawi and Ethiopia 1975). There are documents relating to the research of Dr Rees, Dr McDougall, the Leprosy Research Centre at Oxford (1977-1981), the Leprosy Study Centre (1973-1984), St George’s Medical School (1980-1982), the Association of Medical and Research Charities (1981-1970), the African Medical and Research Foundation (1965-1970), and the Foundation for Medical Research, Bombay (1983-1985).

    There are financial and policy reports for LEPRA from the 1970s and 1980s, fundraising records, and publicity records. There are records relating to ILEP and the ILEP Medical Commission; to ILEP members (the German Leprosy Relief Association 1973-1983, the Leprosy Mission 1973-1980 and the Leprosy Mission International 1987-1992, the Netherlands Leprosy Relief Association 1976-1992, the Fondation Raoul Follereau 1977-1982, the Danish Save the Children Fund 1982-1992, the Association Française Raoul Follereau 1976-1992, the Institute Cardinale Leger 1976-1992, the Order of Malta 1997-1992, and the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation 1977-1992.

    There are records concerned with partner institutions such as the All Africa Research and Training Centre (ALERT), the Friends of Vellore (1977-1978), the Medical Missionaries of Mary (1973-1978), WHO (1974-1992), the David Livingstone Missionary Society (1976-1977), and OXFAM (1963-1973).

    There are boxes containing documents related to the international activities of LEPRA; to drug regimens; to executive committee meetings (1960s-1980s), medical committee meetings (1952-1967), and ILEP activity in the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Burma, Cameroon, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Vietnam, West Indies, Yemen, and Zimbabwe. There are also records of the LEPRA essay competition (1972-1986), and four boxes of films.

    There are twenty-two boxes belonging to the Stanley Browne collection. There is an interim list of this collection.The collection includes personal and biographical material, documents associated with the Baptist Missionary Hospital, Yakusu, Belgian Congo (1936-1958); research files (1946-1983); general subject files (1948-1986); writing by Browne (1935-1985); documents associated with the International Leprosy Association (1909-1985), other international bodies (1959-1986); foreign visits (1965-1985); religious matters (1959-1984) and photographs (1938-1977). This collection includes a program for the Second Leprosy Conference at Bergen in 1909; documents associated with the proposal for the formation of the International Leprosy Association and the International Journal of Leprosy (from Dr Wade), planning documents for the Leonard Wood Memorial Conference on Leprosy held in Manila in 1931, minutes of the 3rd meeting of the ILA (held in London in 1932); documents and correspondence associated with the recognition of the ILA by the United Nations Organisation Health Committee, documents and correspondence associated with the 5th International Congress for Leprosy in Havana, Cuba (1948), the 9th International Leprosy Congress in London (1968) and correspondence associated with the 12th Conference in New Delhi (1983).

    There are twenty-eight boxes belonging to the Strangeways Research laboratory. These are listed and indexed.

    The library also holds a substantial collection of articles, books, journals and theses on leprosy. These can be accessed through the online catalogue.

    The papers of Stanley Browne: leprologist and medical missionary (1907-1986)

    While a significant collection of documents relating to the life and work of Stanley George Browne is held at the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine in London, an equally significant collection of material has also recently been acquired. This new collection sheds additional light on the life and work of Dr Stanley Browne (Member of the Royal College of Physicians, London and Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England), specifically his work in the Belgian Congo (from 1936 to 1959), at Uzuakoli in Nigeria (1959 to 1966), in London with the Leprosy Study Centre (1966-1980), and also in his international capacity as leprosy consultant.

    Browne’s meticulous personality and single-minded dedication to his career as a medical missionary is apparent from the earliest diaries and correspondence in this collection. The early records reveal how Browne set about preparing himself for the future. Much of this preparation took place within the context of the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) as indicated from missionary sketches written by Browne such as the “Missionary dialogue” titled “Krishna Pal in three acts: Showing how William Casey made his first convert in India.” Evidence of the thoroughness which consistently characterises everything he turned his hand to is available in the notes of interview, typed after his application to the London County Council for a Non-Vocational Scholarship, 1926. Browne studied medicine at King’s College Hospital, London, graduating in 1933, and this collection contains letters of congratulation on his success in his exams at King’s.

    There is correspondence from Dr R Fletcher Moorshead of the Baptist Missionary Society regarding Browne’s acceptance to go to Belgium Congo in May 1934. Then in June 1934, there is a letter from Clement Chestermann, who was then the BMS doctor at Yakusu in the Congo, welcoming him. After being accepted, Browne studied French and tropical medicine at the Institute de Médecine Tropicale, Prince Léopold, Antwerp, obtaining the Diploma in Tropical Medicine in 1936. This collection contains letters that he wrote to his father to announce that he had passed his preparatory language exams.

    The first indications in this collection that he had commenced work in the Belgian Congo are from a “Prayer letter”, dated June 28, 1936 from the “Hôpital de Yakusu: BMS: Haut Congo Belge”. Some of Browne’s experiences in the Congo are recorded in a scrapbook on Yakusu, but the real prize in this early part of the collection is a continuous stream of correspondence to his family, extending from May 1936-1954. While Browne was in Yakusu, the leprosarium across the river at Yalisombo was established. Building on Chestermann’s work there, he developed pioneering rural surveys that would come to serve as a model in Africa for the control of endemic diseases. These covered an area of 10,000 square miles, and the map used by Browne for this work is included in this collection. There is also a photographic record of Yalisombo, Yakusu, and the Belgian Congo.

    Medical and missionary activities were tirelessly conducted simultaneously. An instance of this combination of activities is a 1937 inspirational manuscript regarding Yakusu, titled “A medical service in the heart of Africa”. Indications that Browne’s interest was becoming increasingly focussed on leprosy is apparent from documents from 1938. In the “Rapport annuel 1938 for the zone medicale de le BMS Yakusu”, he writes that “Le problème de la lèpre continue à nous donner des grandes difficultés. L’énormité de cette question est de montrer par le grande nombre de cas dépisté pendant les recensements”. The total cases for Yakusu, Isangi, and Yalomba is here estimated as 1637. Even though he considered that leprosy colonies were insufficient to stem this disease, he announced the beginnings of a cooperative endeavour with the government: “Quand même, avec la collaboration du Service Territorial nous avons construit deux colonies agricoles qui viennant d’être terminé au cours de la dernière semaine de l’année 1938.”

    Counterpointing the work conducted in the field, Browne kept a continuous narrative of the work conducted within a spiritual context; for example, in his “Story of the call to the foreign field” and in circular letters written to “Dear friends” from Yakusa, December 1938. “Circular” or “prayer letters” were written as an act of stewardship, for the purpose of informing the financially-supporting church community of the work being carried out in order to elicit prayer support and to encourage further financial support. Browne seems to have worked from the premise that to publish his work in the field was to publicise the work of God.

    His work in medical education is apparent from an edited copy of a medical handbook Vocabulaire medical à l’usage des élèves-infirmièrs. Rédigé par les médicins de l’école pour infirmiers, Hôpital de la BMS, Yakusu, 1942. This handbook provides a detailed medical vocabulary for the indigenous infirmièrs who were trained at Yakusu. There is also a collection of correspondence exchanged with individual infirmièrs between 1938 and 1944.

    Browne’s break with the BMS and the acrimony associated with it can be traced in a published pamphlet that provides his version of events. This painful period is counter balanced with three documents. The first is a prayer letter from 1957 indicating the success of Browne’s work in the eyes of Ken Searle, the senior specialist to the Nigerian Government in Uzuakoli. Here Searle describes his visit to Yakusu and provides his assessment of Browne’s research, referring to him as a pioneer in the missionary method, drawing attention to the importance of the rural work he is conducting, and noting the importance of the infirmièrs. This letter shows the connection with Nigeria and Uzuakoli, and can be seen as quite accidentally alluding to the work that Browne will undertake in the future. The second document, from 1958, is “A memorial service of thanksgiving”, the guide to the thanksgiving ceremony celebrated in Yakasu on the discharge of people who were cured of leprosy. This ceremony was referred to as the “Grateful Samaritan service”. (This copy of the service is from the ceremony attended by Audrey Hepburn when she was at Yakusu during the production of the “Nun’s story”, which was shot at Yakusu). The third document is a letter regarding Browne’s appointment to Uzuakoli, as a successor to Frank Davey¹, dated July 10, 1959.

    After leaving the BMS, Browne increasingly focussed his energies on leprosy work, as is evident in his continuing correspondence with Robert G Cochrane² from 1958 – 1964. These letters show his development as a leprologist. In April 1958, he was writing to Cochrane about biopsies, and sending photos of lesions from Yakusu. In August of the same year, he was proposing a study on depigmentation with respect to leprosy, onchocerciasis, yaws, symmetrical macular hypochromia, hypopigmentation, and other diseases; in August 1962, Cochrane was writing to him about a chapter on differential diagnosis; in March 1963, he was writing to Cochrane about B663; and in the same month and year he was addressing him as “Bob” and writing from the Leprosy Service Research Unit, Uzuakoli.

    From 1959 to 1966, Browne was Director of the Leprosy Research Unit, Uzuakoli, Eastern Nigeria. Just as the time in the Congo is recorded in family correspondence, the time at Uzuakoli in Nigeria is documented in “Daddy’s letters: Nigeria, 1960-1969”. These are letters that Browne wrote weekly to his children when they were attending school in England. The collection also includes published reports of the research work conducted at Uzuakoli.

    Browne’s return to England to take charge of the Leprosy Study Centre in London is first documented in this collection in correspondence from James Ross Innes³ dated May 7, 1963. He became Director of the Leprosy Study Centre from 1966-1980. Documentation on the Leprosy Study Centre and correspondence to do with Browne’s position as Leprosy Advisor to the Minister are part of this period. There are four typed pages on the “Leprosy Study Centre”; a copy of Robert G Cochrane’s memo on the history of the centre, including a statement of proposed objectives and the cost of the “Research programme of the Leprosy Research Fund conducted in collaboration with the Department of Pathology of the Royal Free Hospital”. There is also a memorandum setting out the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association’s research project in East Africa (May 1952), and a “Summary of the activities of the Leprosy Research Unit from its foundation on 12 September, 1952 until May 1964”. There is a report of the work of the Leprosy Study Centre, from June 1963 to August 1965; a report on the work involved in establishing the beginning of a registry of histopathology and a reference laboratory at 11a Weymouth Street during the year 1959-1960, dated August 18, 1960; and six typed pages publicising the “Leprosy Research Fund: its formation and activities from November 1953 to December 1954”.

    In 1966, Browne was writing to James Ross Innes about his multiple roles as Director of the Leprosy Study Centre; Consultant Advisor to the Department of Health and Social Security, 1966-1979; Medical Consultant to the Leprosy Mission 1966-1978; and Medical Secretary of LEPRA 1968-1973, and Vice-President, 1984-1986. He was also the International Leprosy Association Secretary-Treasurer, 1966-1984, and Honorary Vice-President, 1984-1986.

    Browne kept handwritten tour diaries of his work as a leprosy consultant in an international capacity. 1963 saw him undertake a WHO tour of Leprosy Research Centres in India and the East. In 1968, the travel diaries document tours to Rhodesia and South Africa. In 1969, he went to Nepal, the Far East, and Australasia. In 1970, he travelled to East Central State, Nigeria, Lambarene, and Libya. (This visit is accompanied by on-the-spot notes, and a lengthy, typed report on the visit to the Dr Albert Schweitzer Hospital, Lambarene.) In 1972, there is a “Round world trip diary” including Africa (Cairo, Pretoria, Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Paris), Canada and the USA, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and India, as well as Fiji and New Zealand. In 1974, he visited India, Canada, the South Pacific, Singapore, Bangkok, Central and South America, the South Pacific, Sydney, Singapore, and South Africa. In 1975, he visited Zaire, Athens, Libya, Indonesia and Thailand. In 1976, he visited East Africa, Thailand, Dakar, Teheran, South Africa, Colombia, Caracas, and Mexico City. His 1977 travels included Mexico, Thailand, Philippines, Dakar, Libya, Belgium, India, and Zaire, and in 1978, he went to Dakar, Egypt, Addis, Seoul, Mexico, Lesotho, Tanzania, and Zambia. All of these trips are recorded in minute detail, in handwritten diaries.

    A folder from 1985 contains “Personal letters and contacts all round the world”, a collection of letters written to Browne in that period asking him for advice and acting as a representative sample of the network of connections that converged on him towards the end of his career.

    He died on 29 January 1986, and letters of condolence from the Congo, The Leprosy Mission, the BMS, friends, family, the medical fraternity, and the Christian Missionary Fellowship are kept.

    The collection also contains a copy of the Munk’s Roll entry on Browne and a letter from the Princess of Wales, presented to his wife Ethel Marion Williamson, known as Mali.

    These papers will be added to the already substantial collection of Stanley Browne’s papers that the Wellcome Library already holds.

    Entry made January-February 2002 and updated July 2003


    Name Archivist
    Organization Wellcome Institute Library
    Address Wellcome Institute Library, 183 Euston Road, London, United Kingdom.

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