Obituary - Dr Leslie Burgess, Technical Secretary of the UNSCN 1978-1985
(11 August 1930 – 6 January 2017)
All of us at the UNSCN offices were very sad to hear of the passing of Dr Leslie Burgess, the former Technical Secretary of the UNSCN.
Henry Jacques Leslie Burgess (known as Leslie) was born in Dundee, Scotland on 11 August 1930. He attended Edinburgh Academy and graduated in medicine from St Andrews University in 1956. In 1958 he joined the Colonial Service, gained a DTM&H from the University of Liverpool and went to Uganda as a Medical Officer. In 1959, he moved from Tororo to Kampala to run the Government Nutrition Unit and worked closely with the Medical Research Council’s Infantile Malnutrition Research Unit conducting surveys into the prevalence of child malnutrition around the Uganda.
In 1960 he married Ann Farmer. Their sons were born in 1961, 1963 and 1966. In 1961, Leslie went to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine where he received a Diploma in Public Health. Leslie joined the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1965 and served as WHO’s Intercountry Nutrition Consultant for East and Southern Africa until 1971, which was based first in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and then Blantyre, Malawi. In 1972, Leslie earned a Master of Science in Nutrition from Harvard University and was appointed Regional Advisor in Nutrition for the Western Pacific Region based in Manila, Philippines. In June 1978, Dr Leslie Burgess was appointed Secretary of (what was then called) the UN ACC Sub Committee on Nutrition based at FAO HQ, Rome.
In August 1985 he retired to a cottage in the Scottish Highland, while, for several years, carrying out consultancies for WHO in Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines and China. Leslie prepared many publications and reports, and co-authored the 1972 edition of ‘Nutrition for Developing Countries'.
Leslie was the UNSCN’s first Technical Secretary following the winding up of its predecessor, the Protein Advisory Group. As would be expected, this period of establishment faced many troubles but Leslie’s strong technical background, dedication to the importance of nutrition and quiet warm supportive style were ideally suited to making everybody feel they had a strong contribution to make to the UNSCN.
Dr Leslie Burgess was truly a nutrition pioneer and we all owe a large debt to him.