International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Gavin Milroy

    Status Physician
    Country United Kingdom


    Gavin Milroy (1805-1886) was a Scottish physician who was influential as an adviser to the British government on leprosy and other disease policy.

    Milroy studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1828. He was a founding member of the Hunterian Society of Edinburgh. He was co-editor of the Medico-Chirurgical Review from 1844-7, and was elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1853.

    Milroy was a strong opponent of quarantine for all diseases, including leprosy. He was convinced that leprosy was hereditary and not contagious, and opposed policies of enforced isolation for leprosy patients, which he saw as inhumane. As Secretary to the Leprosy Committee of the Royal College of Physicians, he was responsible for an 1867 report instructing colonial governors throughout the British Empire to repeal any laws for the restriction or confinement of people with leprosy. Nevertheless, he did advocate for the segregation of leprosy patients by gender (in the belief that this was necessary to prevent the disease from being passed on to children). He visited leprosaria in the West Indies in 1871-2 and advised their staff on implementing policies of gender segregation.

    Milroy died at Richmond, Surrey, on 11 January 1886.


    "Gavin Milroy." British Medical Journal 1.1313 (1886): 425-6.

    Brown, G.H. ‘Munks Roll Details for Gavin Milroy.’ Royal College of Physicians. Web.

    Edmond, Rod. Leprosy and empire: a medical and cultural history. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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