David Warhurst obituary

Other lives: Parasitologist whose work contributed to the treatment of malaria

My father, David Warhurst, who has died of cancer aged 82, was a scientist whose work in parasitology contributed greatly to the diagnosis and treatment of tropical diseases, in particular malaria.

His research on how the parasite causing malaria became resistant to different drug treatments was hugely influential at a time, starting in the late 1960s, when drug resistance was spreading rapidly. He also worked on amoebic infections, identifying one as the cause of death of a young swimmer in Bath in 1978. The most likely source of the infection was the hot baths, which led to their closure and an opportunity for extensive archaeological investigations. In 1980 the BBC made a Chronicle documentary on the subject.

David was born in Aldershot, Hampshire, where his father, Charles Warhurst, was a nurse in the Royal Army medical corps; his mother, Alice ( nee Cunliffe), was a seamstress. He spent his early childhood around Blackburn and Keighley, then moved south to Leatherhead, Surrey, and attended Reigate grammar school.

He did a degree in combined studies at the University of Leicester, graduating in 1960, and continued with a PhD in zoology in 1964.

He began his career at the National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill, north London, where his boss was Frank Hawking, the father of Stephen. Apart from a few years at the Liverpool School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the bulk of his career was spent both teaching and researching at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where he became emeritus professor.

While volunteering to help disadvantaged people in east London at Toynbee Hall, he met Rosemary Baxter. They married in 1967 and settled in Dulwich, south-east London.

David gave a high priority to training and mentoring students from around the world, in particular Africa, South America and Asia, where he also had extensive research collaborations. One longstanding colleague said: “There was never any self-promotion with David: his career ambitions were his science and sharing all of this with his young students and colleagues.”

After his retirement in 2003 he cared for Rosemary, who had breast cancer and died in 2007. He then went back to his teaching and his research and writing.

He took pleasure in a wide variety of pursuits, including books and theatre, but nothing was more important to him than the natural world. He loved walking and spotting birds, animals, and the tiniest of beetles. He delighted in introducing his children, then grandchildren, to the environment around them. A favourite haunt for nature walks was Box Hill, Surrey, which he first visited as a schoolboy at Reigate.

He is survived by three sons, Neil and me from his marriage to Rosemary, and Robert, from an earlier marriage that ended in divorce; and by five grandchildren, Davide, Albie, Francesca, Jonah and Hal.

Michael Warhurst

The GuardianTramp

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