Kenneth Boyd Fraser (1917-2001)
Kenneth Boyd Fraser, "Kenny", graduated in Medicine from Aberdeen University in 1940 and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1941. He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry for the rescue under heavy fire of an injured infantry soldier while posted in Burma and gained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Upon retirement he published privately a memoir of his time in the war entitled, “Don’t believe a Word of it!”, dedicated to the Chin Highlanders with whom he served.
After returning to civilian life, he joined the Department of Bacteriology in Aberdeen University as a Junior Lecturer. He then spent two years in Australia with Sir MacFarlane Burnet studying recombination in influenza virus, work that resulted in a brilliant series of experiments, which enabled the Burnet group to predict the segmented nature of influenza virus genome. Kenny returned to academic life back in Aberdeen where he showed that the neurotropism of the NWS strain of influenza virus was due to its localization in the Purkinje cells of the mouse cerebellum. He obtained a Doctorate from Aberdeen for his research on "Genetic interactions between strains of Influenza A virus" and was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 1961, he moved to the University of Glasgow as a Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Virology and it was there that he first developed his interest in immunology and, in particular, the technique of immunofluorescence.
Legacy at Queen's University Belfast
Kenny was appointed in 1966 to the Chair of Microbiology at the Queen’s University of Belfast and remained at Queen's until his retirement in 1982.
He made a number of important contributions to Queen's University Belfast:
First, his research into the immunology of persistent virus infections centred on the measles virus and studied the relationship between multiple sclerosis and the immunology of the measles virus. This research was in part supported by a five year project grant from the Medical Research Council. Kenny wrote a book, Measles Virus and Its Biology, together with Prof S. J. Martin (former Head of what is now the School of Biological Sciences at Queen's University).
Second, he was very aware of the need to incorporate the new science of Immunology into both the scientific and clinical fields so that the Department was later renamed Microbiology and Immunobiology. By the mid 1970s immunology was accepted as a discipline in its own right by the NHS in Northern Ireland, in large part due to his foresight and encouragement. In teaching, he was particularly enthusiastic about the benefits of intercalated BSc courses for medical students and made a major personal contribution to them in his own department despite a heavy commitment to the teaching of medical and dental students.
Third, he was a kind man. As had been the case in wartime, his personal attributes were tested again during his time in Belfast. In those days, the “troubles” were at their worst, but under Kenny's leadership staff members at all levels and from diverse backgrounds worked harmoniously together. Kenny and his wife Leslie where known for being most hospitable hosts, which was undoubtedly helped by Kenny's dry, and typically Scottish sense of humour, enhanced by his enjoyment of malt whisky of which he was a connoisseur.
The Annual Kenneth B. Fraser Memorial Symposium
Thanks to an anonymous bequest to Queen's University Belfast, we have been able to establish the Kenneth B. Fraser Memorial Symposium in Infection and Inflammation to celebrate not only Kenny's contributions to immunology and infection but also the opportunity to interact in Belfast, year after year, with world-class scientists within the broad confines of microbiology and immunology.
1. School of Medicine, Densitry and Biomedical Sciences Kenneth B Fraser Memorial Lecture Regulations
2. Kenneth Boyd Fraser, by Morag C Timbury, Thomas A McNeill and Margaret Haire
Previous Keynote Speakers
Professor Feng Shao, National Institute of Biological Sciences, Beijing, China
Professor Arturo Casadevall, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA
Professor Craig Roy, Yale University, USA
Professor Toby Lawrence, Centre d’Immunologie de Marseille-Luminy, France
Professor Stefania Spano, University of Dundee
Professor Dr Wolf-Dietrich Hardt, Institute of Microbiology, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Dr Rachel McLoughlin, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Professor Jorge Galan, Yale University, USA
Professor Clare Bryant, University of Cambridge
Professor Gad Frankel, Imperial College London