In Memoriam: Nevin Scrimshaw, UNU World Hunger Programme Founder

  • 2013•02•12     Tokyo

    It is with great sorrow that the United Nations University announces the death of Dr. Nevin S. Scrimshaw, Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founder of the World Hunger Programme of the United Nations University. Dr. Scrimshaw, age 95, died on Friday, 8 February 2013 from congestive heart failure.

    During a career spanning seven decades and over 100 countries Dr. Scrimshaw dedicated his life’s work to the alleviation of malnutrition and hunger, benefiting the lives of millions of people throughout the developing world. As a public health pioneer he championed the development of numerous malnutrition solutions, and led a number of research programs and institutes.

    In 1949 Dr. Scrimshaw was founding Director of the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama, the first international research institute to focus on the study of malnutrition. He devoted 12 years to leading that Institute while also serving as regional advisor in nutrition to the World Health Organization.

    Dr. Scrimshaw joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1961 as a professor of human nutrition; his groundbreaking work there earned him several awards and distinctions, including the rank of Institute Professsor — a position only conferred upon distinguished scholars of special accomplishment. He retired from MIT in 1988.

    In 1975 Dr. Scrimshaw organized the World Hunger Programme at the United Nations University. He directed the UNU Food and Nutrition Programme until 31 December 1997, and continued thereafter to serve as Senior Advisor. Dr. Scrimshaw was also founder and continuing Honorary President of the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation, which was initiated through a partnership with UNU in 1984.

    Throughout his career, Dr. Scrimshaw focused his work around the principle of preventing malnutrition through locally produced, low-cost foods. His research yielded many affordable and accessible nutritional supplements to fight protein, iron and iodine deficiencies, while his practical philosophy and training inspired scientists throughout the world, including hundreds of scientists from developing countries.

    Dr. Scrimshaw received dozens of awards and honours throughout his career, with a highlight being the 1991 World Food Prize in recognition of a “lifetime of action to alleviate malnutrition in developing nations”.

    He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Mary Scrimshaw, five children, ten grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.