Sir John Boyd Orr (1880 – 1971), Nobel Prize recipient for his work on nutrition who lived in West Kilbride.

On the 23rd of September 1880 John Boyd Orr – Nobel Peace Prize recipient – was born in Kilmaurs.  

John Boyd Orr

During his lifetime he was a teacher, doctor, biologist and politician. He is regarded as the founding father of modern nutrition science and he was the first scientist to show that there was a link between poverty, poor diet and ill health. In 1936 he showed that at least one third of the UK population were so poor that they couldn’t afford to buy sufficient food to provide a healthy diet. 

He was the middle child of a family of seven and they moved to West Kilbride when he was 5 years old. He attended the village school and eventually become a pupil teacher before attending Glasgow University to study teacher training and theology. 

He was a teacher at Kyleshill School in Saltcoats and after returning to University to study medicine and biology, he was a locum doctor at the Saltcoats practice.  

He was posted as a medical officer during the First World War where he spent a lot of his time in shell holes tending to and patching up many a wounded soldier. He received a Military Cross after the Battle of the Somme due to his courage under fire and the Distinguished Service Order after Passchendaele. He also made sure his battalion’s diet included vegetables that were collected from local gardens and fields that had been abandoned. This meant that there were fewer soldiers in his care that had to be sent to hospital. 

He went on to research nutrition in both animals and humans and he was passionate about improving people’s diets. He believed that “…world peace must be based on world plenty.” Among his many research findings was the demonstration of the nutritional benefits in young children of drinking milk – a result which led to the introduction of free school milk. The landmark Carnegie Survey of Diet and Health in Pre-War Britain, which Boyd Orr masterminded, was used by the UK Government to help formulate the food ration during World War II. 

He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949 for his research into nutrition and for his work as the first Director- General of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation.) He was also knighted that same year. 

He died on the 25th of June, 1971 aged 90 years in Brechin, Angus. 

Boyd Orr Road in Saltcoats is named after him and the University of Glasgow has a Boyd Orr Building. His Nobel Prize is held in the University’s Hunterian Museum. 

Sir John Boyd Orr Memorial Garden in West Kilbride