Cicely Delphine Williams (1893–1992) was a Jamaican born, English paediatrician, nutritionist and child health advocate.
Williams was instrumental in advancing the field of maternal and child health in developing nations. Responsible for initiating a worldwide campaign against the use of unsuitable sweetened condensed milk as a substitute for breastmilk and for the diagnosis of the dreaded childhood nutritional disease, kwashiorkor (1931).
- Born 2 December 1893 at Kew Park, Westmoreland, Jamaica
- 1906 – Migrated to England; attended Bath High School for Girls, 1906-1912
- 1916 – Studied medicine at Somerville College, Oxford. BM (1920); ChB (1923)
- 1923 – Paediatric training at the South London Hospital for Women and Children
- 1928 – Diploma at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
- 1929 – Colonial medical service in Ghana (then named the Gold Coast) – first female physician appointed
- 1933 – First publication on Kwashiorkor
- 1935 – Paediatrician in Singapore – campaigned for mothers to breastfeed their children
- 1942 – WWII interned by the Japanese
- 1948 – Director of the Maternal and Child Health section of the newly-formed World Health Organization, Geneva
- 1953 – Senior lecturer in nutrition, University of London
- 1959-1964 Visiting professor of mother and child health care at the American University in Beirut
- 1965 – James Spence Medal for contributions in the field of tropical paediatrics.
- 1968 – Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George
- Honorary fellow of King’s College Hospital Medical School
- Died 13 July 1992, Oxford
if you learn your nutrition from a biochemist, you’re not likely to learn how essential it is to blow a baby’s nose before expecting him to suckCicely Williams
Kwashiorkor (1933) [aka oedematous malnutrition] Initially described as nutritional disease affecting children between 1 and 4 years, secondary to a diet of mainly maize after they cease breast feeding. Currently defined as the presence of bilateral pitting oedema, in the absence of another medical cause of oedema, generally occurring while receiving a monotonous cereal-based diet.
In fact, a name means very little except to classify a certain conception. Until pathologists and biochemists can give us more precise informstion about the defects, we may well accept the word kwashiorkor in all its cacophony.Cicely Williams, 1953.
Key Medical Attributions
- 1952 Williams undertook research into an epidemic of Jamaican vomiting sickness. She found the Ackee apple fruit, a native fruit of Jamaica, was responsible for the acute gastrointestinal illness and associated hypoglycemia particularly in malnourished children.
- Williams CD. A nutritional disease of childhood associated with a maize diet. Arch Dis Child. 1933 Dec; 8(48): 423–433.
- Williams CD. Kwashiorkor: a nutritional disease of children associated with a maize diet. Lancet 1935; 226(5855): 1151-1152 [PMC2572388]
- Williams CD. World Health Organization maternal and child health work. J Am Med Womens Assoc. 1949 Jul;4(7):285.
- Williams CD. Kwashiorkor: Council on Foods and Nutrition. JAMA. 1953; 153(14): 1280-5.
- Williams CD. Self-help and nutrition: real needs of underdeveloped countries. Lancet. 1954; 266(6807): 323-5.
- Dally A. Cicely: The Story of a Doctor. London: Victor Gollancz, 1968.
- Darby WJ. Cicely D. Williams, her life and influence. Nutr Rev. 1973 Nov;31:331-3.
- S. Craddock. Retired except on demand: the life of Dr Cicely Williams. Oxford University Press. 1983
- Dr. Cicely Williams. History’s Greatest
- Baker AP. Williams, Cicely Delphine (1893–1992). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
- Stanton J. Obituary: Dr Cicely Williams. Independent. 16 July 1992
- Stanton J. Listening to the Ga: Cicely Williams’ discovery of kwashiorkor on the Gold Coast. Clio Med. 2001;61:149-71.
- Heikens GT, Manary M. 75 years of Kwashiorkor in Africa. Malawi Med J. 2009 Sep;21(3):96-8.
the person behind the name