International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Dr Richard J W Rees

    Status Medical Researcher
    Country United Kingdom


    Richard John William Rees, universally known as Dick Rees, CMG, FRCP, FRCPath, pathologist and researcher in leprosy and tuberculosis (1917-1998) was one of the most influential British leaders in the fight against leprosy. He was educated at Sheen County Secondary School, before studying medicine at Guy's Hospital. After qualifying from Guy's in 1942, he served as a captain in the Army Blood Transfusion Service in the North African and Italian campaigns. At the end of World War II, he returned to Guy's and started his career in experimental pathology.

    The Medical Research Council has just set up a new Tuberculosis Research Unit under the directorship of DR Philip D'Arcy Hart. In 1949, D'Arcy Hart recruited him to work on experimental tuberculosis at the National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill.

    In the early 1950s, he gradually started to shift his focus, drawing on the TB Unit's experience in successfully bringing together high quality laboratory-based research and clinical research carried out under, often difficult field conditions, he turned his attention to leprosy. From his base at the National Institute for medical research, he began to establish an international network of collaborators in leprosy research. A number of field units were set up, firstly in Sungei Buloh in Malaysia and later in Addis Ababa, and in Hyderabad, South India.

    In 1963, he became chairman of the Medical Advisory Board for LEPRA. He was appointed Head of the Medical Research Council Laboratory for Leprosy Research at Mill Hill in 1969. Following the discovery of the mouse foot-pad model by Shepard, the improved T900r model by Rees further advanced the study of antileprosy drugs and drug resistance in leprosy.


    "Sulfone Resistance in Leprosy: An Experimental and Clinical Study" British J Exper Path 45 (1964): 207-8.

    "Experimental Studies on Nerve Fibers in Leprosy" R J W Rees, F C Path, G Weddell, Elisabeth Palmer and D G Jamison. II,; The Reaction of Human Schwann Cells Toward Carbon Particles and Leprosy Bacilli International Journal of Leprosy 33. 2 (1965).

    Pearson J M H, R J W Rees, and M F R Waters, "'One Hundred Proven Cases' of Sulphone Resistance in Sungei Buloh" Lancet 12 July 1975.

    "Tuberculosis and Leprosy" scientific editor, R.J.W. Rees. British Medical Bulletin 44.3 Edinburgh : Churchill Livingstone, 1988.

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