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This Illustrated History is designed and published to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Wellcome Trust, an institution long known for its support of research in the tropical diseases and the history of medicine. The editor, F.E.G. Cox, Professor of Parasite Immunology at King's College London, describes the work as a volume for both the general reader and the specialist; not a textbook but a historical reference with emphasis on the nature of discovery and the individuals involved.
The book had its origins in the concern to preserve and put on record historical information accumulated during the preparation and production of the Trust's Tropical Diseases Videodisc Project. The project covered etiology, diagnosis, treatment and prevention, but not the history or research of the diseases leading to their full characterization. The Trust invited a number of British scientists and clinicians with “a sense of history” and professional knowledge and experience of the diseases to contribute particular chapters.