Tributes pur in for man who helped the nation keep fit

PUBLISHED: 17:01 05 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:31 07 September 2010

by Susanna Wilkey FRIENDS and family have paid tribute to a distinguished professor of health known as the man who invented exercise who has died aged 99. Jerry Morris, who spent most of his life living in Hampstead on Platt s Lane and Briardale Gardens, p

Susanna Wilkey

FRIENDS and family have paid tribute to a distinguished professor of health known as "the man who invented exercise" who has died aged 99.

Jerry Morris, who spent most of his life living in Hampstead on Platt's Lane and Briardale Gardens, passed away at the Royal Free Hospital on October 28 from multiple organ failure.

Born in Liverpool on May 6, 1910, Mr Morris grew up in Glasgow where he had moved at a young age. He studied medicine at the city's university before moving to London to work as a junior doctor.

He developed a huge interest in epidemiology, the study of transmission and control of disease, and wanted to find out why different people suffered from different illnesses, particularly heart disease.

After working in India and Burma as part of the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Second World War he returned to London and was appointed to the Medical Research Council (MRC) where he worked in the social medicine unit for nearly 30 years.

It was here in 1949 he carried out his pioneering research into the link between exercise and heart disease.

He did a study on bus conductors and bus drivers, both in the same social class, to find out why more drivers died of heart attacks.

He made the link between the sedentary lifestyle of the drivers and the active lifestyle of the conductors, who were half as likely to drop dead of a heart attack, and concluded for the first time what is now widely accepted - that exercise helps you live longer.

He was on the MRC for more than 30 years and was appointed Emeritus Professor of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in 1967 where he continued to work long after his retirement.

In 1972 he was made a CBE and in 1996 in Atlanta he was awarded the first International Olympic Medal and Prize in Exercise Sciences.

He met his wife Galina Morris (nee Schuchalter) in 1938 and they married the following year. They adopted two children David and Julie in 1952 and 1954.

His son said: "He was absolutely a workaholic and loved his career.

"He was also an absolute fanatic of the arts, music and opera especially and he was an avid reader - I have never known anyone to read so much, it was unbelievable.

"He was quite a character and very full-on, with such a zest for life right up until the end.

"He used to jog on Hampstead Heath every day and liked to claim he was the first person to regularly do so. People thought he was crazy at first.

"He also swam every day up until his mid-90s at the Marriott in Swiss Cottage and used to walk for at least half an hour each day. He was fearfully independent and he made no allowances for his age at all."

Mr Morris was a socialist and became a member of the Labour Party in 1926. He continued as a paid-up member for the rest of his life despite breaking with the party over the Iraq war.

His colleague from the LSHTM Virginia Berridge said: "Jerry was a towering figure in 20th century public health. The corridors of the school will seem strange without him.

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