Burkitt, Denis Parsons (1911-1993)
- Denis Parsons Burkitt CMG, FRS, FRCS, MD (1911-1993), surgeon and medical researcher in tropical Africa
- Archives and manuscripts
About this work
The material presented in 1995 comprises further 'Safari Diaries', including the 1961 journal, plus accounts and reports of safaris, tours and visits to numerous other countries around the world up to 1979; correspondence with Peter Cleave 1968-1975; correspondence, etc., with millers regarding the refining of flour 1972; further material on the geographical pattern of cancer in tropical Africa, 1960s-1970s; additional photographs of Burkitt's lymphoma; typescript autobiography; typescript biography of E. H. Williams; reprints of Burkitt's published papers; material relating to Burkitt's MRC project on dietary fibre including peptic ulcer questionnaires filled in by hospitals 1974-1975 and file cards, synthesis and analysis of information including published papers (the survey covered countries in Africa and Asia).
There is also a large volume of slides, drawings and artwork (WTI/DPB/C/8) Denis Burkitt used for lectures on diet and disease or which were used in related publications. As this material is currently in an unsorted condition requests for access must be made in writing to Archives and Manuscripts.
Section A: Mulago Hospital and Makerere Medical School, Kampala, Uganda, c.1937-1975
Section B: Research into Cancers in Africa, Notably Burkitt's Lymphoma, 1950s-1975
Section C: Research into the Role of Diet in the Aetiology of Western Diseases, 1968-1985
Section D: Travel 'Safaris' and Journals and Trip Itineraries of Denis Burkitt, 1956-1979
Section E: Writings by Denis Burkitt, 1938-1992
Section F: Personal, Biographical and Autobiographical Material of Denis Burkitt, 1922-1993
Burkitt made two major contributions to medical science related to his experiences in Africa. He was the first to describe, document and study the etiology of a specific form of cancer he had observed in children. In 1958 he published "A Sarcoma involving the jaws of African children" (The British Journal of Surgery Vol 46, 197) detailing the condition which became known as Burkitt's lymphoma. He went on to map the epidemiology geographical distribution and published of the tumour and in April 1970 published, together with Dr Dennis Wright, the book Burkitt's Lymphoma. Burkitt's second major contribution was in the field diet, nutrition and health. Upon his return to England he compared the patterns of disease in Africa and the West and concluded that many Western diseases were a result of lack of fibre in the diet as well as lifestyle. Although some of his conclusions (e.g. regarding colon cancer) are now generally considered incorrect, however a diet high in dietary fibre is an accepted precautionary to diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Along with Surgeon Captain Peter Cleave, a retired naval surgeon, and Hugh Trowell, he promoted in numerous articles and publications the benefits of a higher intake of fibre and reduction in the consumption of refined processed foods as a way to avoid common diseases in the developed world such as coronary heart disease, gall stones, haemorrhoids, diverticular disease, diabetes and varicose veins. His book Don't Forget to Put Fibre in Your Diet was published in 1979.
Denis Burkitt was a committed Christian, one time President of the Christian Medical Fellowship (UK) and wrote frequently on religious themes.