Murder of Sir Jack Drummond

Jack Drummond

Sir Jack Cecil Drummond was British biochemist, his most noted for his work on nutrition as applied to the British diet under rationing during the World War 2. He was son of Colonel John Drummond of the Royal Horse Artillery and Gertrude Drummond (although it is still unclear if they were married). John Drummond died at age 55, only three months after Jack’s birth, Jack was adopted and raised by John’s sister Maria Spinks, who lived in nearby Charlton. Maria’s husband, George, was a retired captain quartermaster, who had seen action in the Crimea.

 - Jack Drummond

After graduating with First Class honours in chemistry in 1912 at East London College Jack Drummond became a research assistant in the department of physiology at King’s College London, working under Otto Rosenheim and the professor W.D. Halliburton. In 1914. he moved to the Cancer Hospital Research Institute, where he became interested in nutrition.

In 1917, Halliburton invited Drummond to join him in experimental work on substitutes for butter and margarine. As a result of this work, fat-soluble vitamins became one of his major fields of interest. It also led him to the study of practical problems of human nutrition and, in 1918, he published a paper in The Lancet on infant feeding.

In 1919, he moved to University College London to work on physiological chemistry, the precursor to modern biochemistry. In 1920, he proposed the "vital substances" should be called Vitamins A and B, to contrast them with his proposed anti-scurvy factor, Vitamin C. In 1922, at the age of 31, he became the first Professor of Biochemistry at UCL and held that position until 1945. In the 1930s, he succeeded in isolating pure vitamin A and studied the English diet over the previous 500 years, which led him to write a book called "The Englishman’s Food: A History of Five Centuries of English Diet". He published it together with with his future second wife Anne Wilbraham in 1939.

The Ministry of Food consulted him on the gas contamination of food at the outbreak of war and, on 16 October 1939, appointed him chief adviser on food contamination. On 1 February 1940, he was appointed Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Food. He prepared a plan for the distribution of food based on "sound nutritional principles". He recognised that rationing was the perfect opportunity to attack what he called "dietetic ignorance" and that, if successful, he would be able not just to maintain but to improve the nation’s health. In 1944 he was knighted.

On 17 July 1915 Drummond married Mable Helen Straw, who had also been an undergraduate at East London College. Their marriage lasted 24 years until 1939, when they got divorce due to Drummond’s affair with his secretary and co-author, Anne Wilbraham. Jack and Anne married on 15 June 1940, their only child, Elizabeth, was born on 23 March 1942.

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