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Morley, David Cornelius (1923–2009), paediatrician, was born on 15 June 1923 at the vicarage, Rothwell, Northamptonshire, the youngest of seven children of John Arthur Malcolmson Morley (1868–1951), vicar of Rothwell, and his wife, (Evelyn) Ruth Elwell, née Potter (1886–1959). He was educated at Parkfield School, Haywards Heath, and at Marlborough College (where he was a foundation scholar), Clare College, Cambridge (where he graduated BA in 1944 and MB BChir in 1947), and St Thomas's Hospital, London (where he qualified MRCS LRCP in 1947).

After qualifying as a doctor Morley undertook national service in Singapore and Malaya as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps. From 1950 to 1951 he worked as a general practitioner in Australia and then returned to the United Kingdom, to Newcastle upon Tyne, where he trained with two luminaries of British paediatrics, James Spence and Donald Court, and took his diploma in child health and his MD by thesis in 1955. While in Newcastle he met Aileen Leyburn (b. 1927), who was then a ward sister. She was the daughter of George Leyburn, police officer. They married at St Gabriel's Church, Heaton, on 6 August 1952 and had two sons and one daughter.

Morley left the United Kingdom again in 1956 to take up the post of paediatrician at the Methodist Hospital in Ilesha, Nigeria, where he was also a lecturer at the University of Ibadan. In 1961 he returned to the United Kingdom to take up a lecturer's post in human nutrition at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In 1965 he was persuaded by Otto Wolff, Nuffield professor of child health, to become a senior lecturer at the Institute of Child Health, part of the University of London, and to establish a new unit of tropical child health (forerunner of the Centre for International Health and Development). He never moved again, qualifying MRCP in 1972 when he also became a reader; he was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1977. He became professor of tropical child health in 1978 and remained at the Institute of Child Health until 1988 when he became professor emeritus.

In the village of Imesi in Nigeria, Morley carried out the first longitudinal study in Africa of child growth, influenced by Spence's ‘1000 families’ study in Newcastle, and developed a prototype ‘parent held record’, the ‘Road to health’ growth chart. He quickly realized that the then UK model of hospital-based paediatrics would not address the 25 per cent mortality rate in children under five years old in this developing country. Building on this experience in Nigeria, where he witnessed first hand the ravages of under-nutrition and infection, including preventable diseases such as measles, he subsequently pioneered clinics for the under-fives which combined paediatric medicine with the wider disciplines of child health promotion and disease prevention, including immunization, nutrition, growth, family planning, and health education. This was truly community primary care paediatrics.

With James Grant and Jon Rhode at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in the 1980s Morley drove forward the child survival revolution led by UNICEF, promoting simple, effective interventions, with the result that immunization coverage rose rapidly, avoidable deaths from diarrhoea fell with the use of simple, cheap oral rehydration solutions, and breast feeding was encouraged to prevent malnutrition. To support this advocacy and train and inspire a new generation of child health workers, Morley established diploma and masters courses in tropical maternal and child health (with Hermione Lovel and Zef Ebrahim) and disability (with Pam Zinkin), which attracted many future health leaders. As well as numerous articles in specialist journals, Morley wrote three books: Paediatric Priorities in the Developing World (1973), which highlighted prevention as well as cure and emotional well-being as well as physical health; See How They Grow (with Margaret Woodland, 1979); and My Name Is Today (with Hermione Lovel, 1986), which outlined simple measures to prevent child deaths. He also co-edited two others, Practising Health for All (1983) and Reaching Health for All (1993).

Morley had an extremely agile mind, developing a spring balance with a seat and a mid-arm tape measure as simple tools to monitor weight and fat thickness in poor countries and a double-ended spoon for making up sugar and salt rehydration solutions locally. His other great contribution was developing the concept of low-cost teaching aids and in 1965 establishing a charity, Teaching-Aids at Low Cost (TALC), which distributed up to 75,000 invaluable books and 300,000 teaching slides per year all over the world. He also established the ‘Child-to-child’ programme with Hugh Hawes in 1978 to spread health messages using children as the messengers. He received many honours, including the James Spence medal, the highest honour of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (1989), and the Leon Bernard prize of the World Health Organization (1992). He was appointed CBE in 1989.

Morley was remarkable for developing simple practical and educational aids to promote child care in diverse communities around the world and inspiring a generation of paediatricians, public health doctors, nutritionists, nurses, administrators, teachers, journalists, and managers in both the UK and developing countries. He was warm, friendly, funny, modest, shrewd, a great advocate, and always encouraging to those following in his footsteps. He had charisma and enthusiasm in equal measure. He had all three qualities of great leadership—the ability to see the priorities, the wood from the trees, and take decisions to address those; the ability to take people with him and the tenacity not to give up when they were slow to follow; and the vision and passion to make it sustainable after he had moved on. A committed and tolerant Anglican Christian, in later life he swept the floor of his church every other week. Latterly he lived in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. He died on 2 July 2009 at the Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester, Dorset, while on holiday, of heart disease; his funeral was held on 14 July. He was survived by his wife, Aileen, and their three children. On 18 October 2010 his life was celebrated at a symposium at the Institute of Child Health, London, entitled ‘Paediatric priorities in the developing world’.

Terence Stephenson


A. Costello, ‘Celebration of the life of Professor David Morley’, 13 July 2009, www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0907/09071301, accessed on 27 March 2012 · The Lancet, 374 (8 Aug 2009), 446 · Journal of Tropical Paediatrics, 55/4 (Aug 2009), 213–15 · The Independent (1 Sept 2009) · Daily Telegraph (8 Sept 2009) · BMJ, 339 (12 Sept 2009), 633 · The Times (6 Oct 2009); (10 Oct 2009); (14 Oct 2009) · The Guardian (16 Oct 2009); (22 Oct 2009) · www.talcuk.org/about/professor-david-morley.htm, accessed on 27 March 2012 · WW (2009) · personal knowledge (2013) · private information (2013) · b. cert. · m. cert. · d. cert.


Wellcome L., papers  



‘David Morley: a man with a vision’, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig6jsf-z2Nc




BL NSA, interview recording


S. Poole, photograph, 1988, Rex Features, London

Wealth at death  

£41,755: probate, 27 Oct 2009, CGPLA Eng. & Wales