John Boyd Orr has been described as 'one of the most influential campaigners for a more healthy diet'. A nutritional physicist, born in Ayrshire in 1880, he was awarded the Military Cross at the Somme in 1916, was knighted in 1935 and won the Nobel peace prize in 1949.
He set up the Rowett Research Institute in 1922, where work initially focused on the study of minerals in pastures, the nutrition of farm animals and the health and diet of the Kikuyu and Masai peoples in Kenya.
The work on animals produced improvements in the production of meat, wool and milk and improved knowledge on pastures and food mixtures.
By 1927 Boyd Orr was showing by experiments the value of milk in the health and growth of British children. This led Walter Elliot, a friend of Boyd Orr's and then under-secretary of state for Scotland, to introduce legislation to provide milk for children in Scottish schools.
In 1930 he published a report on the diet of 607 families in seven Scottish towns and he continued to draw attention to the poor state of health and nutrition in British people, advocating a national food policy, linked to an agricultural policy, and one which had concern for human need.
With his son-in-law, David Lubbock, he headed the Carnegie Survey and in 1940 he and Mr Lubbock published Feeding the People in Wartime , which outlined ways of maximising food production at home, reducing non-essential food imports and diverting milk and vitamin-rich supplements to expectant and nursing mothers, infants and growing children.
They advocated rationing for protein-rich foods and price controls.
In the same year, Boyd Orr was invited to join the coalition government's Cabinet scientific sub-committee on food policy.
In 1941 he became first president of the Nutrition Society and travelled to the US to take part in discussions on his idea of a world food plan.
He wanted to see a supra-national world food board with powers to buy and hold foodstocks, provide funds for the technical development of agriculture and finance the supply of food to needy countries. But this was not supported by the major world powers and his plan was rejected in 1947.
In 1943 it was agreed that an international Food and Agriculture Organisation should be established and he was asked to become its director general, a position he held from 1945 until 1948, when he resigned shortly after he knew his world food plan was not going to be adopted.
Boyd Orr was elected to Parliament as independent member for the Scottish Universities in 1945-46, became rector of Glasgow University in 1945 and its chancellor in 1946. He was created Baron Boyd Orr in 1949, the same year he won the Nobel peace prize for the active part he took in world peace organisations. He donated the cash award to the National Peace Council, the World Federation Government and other organisations. He died in 1971.
Sources David Gunnell et al . Lifecourse Exposure and Later Disease: a follow-up study based on a survey of family diet and health in pre-war Britain (1937-39). Public Health 1996; 110: 85-94. The Society of Public Health.
John Boyd Orr, an essay by Walter Duncan, honorary archivist of the Rowett Institute, in Dictionary of Scottish Biography . 1971-1975, Carrick Media.