Founding of the Molteno Institute

• George Nuttall and the Quick Laboratory

The founding of the Molteno Institute was initiated by George Nuttall, who joined the Department of Pathology in 1899, the next year being made a University Lecturer in Bacteriology and Preventative Medicine. Nuttall had a particular interest in parasitology and the role of insect and other vectors in the spread of these infections, and carried out investigations of the distribution of Anopheline mosquitoes in England in relation to the previous prevalence of malaria there in addition to working on blood precipitin reactions. During his first six years as a lecturer he was instrumental in the establishment of a course teaching a Diploma in Tropical Medicine in Cambridge, and in 1906 was promoted to University Reader in Hygiene, and very shorty afterwards was elected to the postion of Quick Professor of Biology. In 1907 he moved to a new laboratory, known as the Quick Laboratory, on the ground floor of the then Medical School, beneath the Humphrey Museum (now the Balfour library of the Department of Zoology). It quickly became apparent however that this laboratory had severe limitations, and Nuttall appealed for funds to build and equip a new Institute for Parasitological Research in Cambridge.

• Percy Alport and Elizabeth Martin Molteno and the Foundation of the Institute

During the period of the Quick laboratory Nuffield had carried out wide ranging studies of protozoan diseases of both man and animals. In particular research was carried out on piroplasmosis of domesticated animals, showing that Trypan Blue could be used to treat this disease. This work was particularly valuable to farmers as piroplasmosis was (and is) a serious disease of their livestock. From 1910 onwards Nuffield began actively seeking funds to carry out his research, the Quick Fund not being able to cover all hs expenses. To do this his sought assistance outside the University, from a number of Government bodies, in particular the Colonial Office and, in Southern Africa, the Transvaal and Cape Town Colonys.
Mr and Mrs Molteno were farmers in South Africa, with an interest in animal husbandry and diseases, and Nuffields work on piroplasmosis had interested them, such that they also contributed to his funds. When Nuffield began actively seeking assistance for his new Parasitological Institute the Moltenos responded generously, giving funding for both the construction of a suitable building, and for a fund to maintain the new Institute. The University provided land on the 'Downing Site' near the boundary with Downing college, and construction began in May 1920. The building was completed the next year, and was officially opened as the Molteno Institute for Research in Parasitology on 28th November 1921, by Earl Buxton of Newtimber, formally the Governor-General of South Africa.

• The Subsequent History of The Molteno Institute

George Nuttall and the other members of the new Molteno Institute had already moved into the building in October of 1921. The building consisted of three floors. The top floor of the building was taken up with the lecture room and museum, whilst the middle, first floor contained an aviary, (where Dr Ann Bishop carried out research on avian malaria), the tea room (later the Green Room), Professor Nuttall's office, and the Library. Other laboratories and offices were found on the ground floor, and the basement housed the workshop. As well as research into parasitology, from the middle of the 1920's David Keilin, (who had previously worked with Nuttall in the Quick Laboratory , and would later succeed Nuttall as both Quick Professor and Director of the Institute), moved into Molteno. Here, as well as carrying out parasitological research, he conducted his famous studies on the cytochrome system.

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