Kuru pioneer Gajdusek dies at 85
An epic account of a good life richly lived

A serologist’s reminiscences of PNG

Dr Peter Booth arrived in Port Moresby in October 1962 as the first Director of the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service. He was a serologist. His wife, Kitty, a haematologist. Between them, they knew everything about blood that could be known. When Peter arrived, the Blood Transfusion Service consisted of two nursing sisters in Port Moresby, one in Lae and one in Rabaul. When he left, shortly before Independence, there was a fully operational blood bank in all the major centres.

After some years in Christchurch running the Blood Transfusion Service, Peter and Kitty returned to Port Moresby to share a visiting professorship at the University of Papua New Guinea.

Well into his retirement, Peter was invited to deliver the inaugural Ruth Sanger Memorial Ovation at the Conference of the Australasian Society for Blood Transfusion in October 1990. He wrote the paper but died in February 1990 before he could deliver it. It was his 100th paper and, renamed the Peter Booth Memorial Ovation, it was read at the conference by his son Nick.

It is both an erudite and witty presentation (the original has slides, but it won’t affect your enjoyment of Peter’s prose), with many references to his work in PNG. An extract below and you can read the full paper, which is on the PNGAA website, here.

This is in fact the old hospital at Saiho, 18 miles and 18 rivers from Popondetta. Bush materials, flat swampy ground, a tropical paradise, and absolutely lethal. Infested by mosquitoes all full of talciparum malaria, not chloroquin-resistant in my day. The lab was much the size of an average garden shed, and, when it contained two burly Melanesians - Edward the technician and his mate - and myself, it seemed like WembleyStadium on Cup Final Day.

Reverting to Saiho old hospital, l had another picture to show you, but have mislaid it. It showed preparation of the patients' lunch: slices of bread being fried in pig grease on top of old 40 gallon drums. It smelt delicious, and l was even more envious after lunch with the Saiho Medical Officer He was a single man, with a mind well elevated above the humdrum, so he failed to notice that his housekeeping was being deplorably neglected by a handful of slovenly Papuan house-boys, who served up an abominable lunch.

However, an even worse meal from PNG is on record. It was served in 1888 at Government House, Port Moresby, to the Resident Deputy Commissioner, Hugh Hastings Romilly, who was living alone there, awaiting the arrival of the first Administrator, William MacGregor. When Romilly came to breakfast on his first day, he was confronted by a table covered with a dirty old blanket on which was arranged a bizarre meal.

Cockroach Cheese, One Dutch

Blue mould sardines, One tin opened

Bitten bread, One hunk

Brandy, One bottle

Whisky, One bottle

Office gum, One pot


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Pete Scales

I also found it interesting, as Dr Peter Booth was my mum's brother. How about that? I haven't heard hide nor hair of Nick his sons and his sister.

Contact: 3 Envilles Chase, lt-laver, Ongar, Essex , UK, 01279 730168


I find this article very interesting as Dr Booth was my grandfather, Thankyou for this information.

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