2001 – Dr. John Wyon

In by Marc Pitre

John Wyon was one of the pioneers in the field of population science and had a 35-year career at the Harvard School of Public Health, retiring in 1988 as a senior lecturer in the Department of Population and International Health. A British missionary doctor fluent in Hindi, Wyon began his career in Ethiopia and rural India. In 1943, as a conscientious objector to military service, Wyon joined a Quaker organization and served as the only Western qualified doctor in the Province of Tigre in Ethiopia, working at a government-run hospital that had 100 beds and six outpatient clinics for a community of approximately one million people. He developed a desire to practice medicine effectively among impoverished and illiterate populations with no access to health care.

A leader in establishing community-based health care, Dr. Wyon also helped establish one of the first longitudinal investigations in population science: the 1953 Khanna Study. Wyon served as Field Director for the study and later co-wrote a book considered to be a classic in the field, The Khanna Study: Population Problems in the Rural Punjab.

Dr. Wyon and colleague John Gordon worked to test the possibility of changing the birth rates in the rural villages of Punjab, India, through the use of birth control. This was the start of what would eventually become known as community-based health care?strong outreach services, down to the household level, for basic health and family planning services in rural areas without hospitals. Wyon and Gordon have since been credited with contributing to the progress that has been made in Bangladesh in reducing childhood mortality and in reducing fertility.

Dr. Wyon died on May 31, 2004