In London still


the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine


No, not a reference to lyrics from the Waifs. More a matter of ruminating over the consequences of a flying visit to the UK capital; home of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The London School is the larger of the two remaining British centres of tropical medicine and maintains R & D collaborations with partner centres round the world; a truly international centre in more ways than one. The MicroGnome was there to plan yet more field research and deliver a lunch-time talk on the field applications of molecular microbiology [Field Apps LSTM 2010], and was rewarded with a day-long feast of medical microbiology with fellow micrognauts.

Also on the London itinerary was the map reading room at the Royal Geographical Society‘s Kensington Gore site. Think modern university library but switch maps for books. Heaven must have a map room. Micrognome was on a quest for early depictions of tropical Western Australia. He was rewarded by maps from the original John Forrest expedition to the Kimberley and Canning’s survey for the eponymous stock route,. It is so easy to view physical geography through Google Earth or with the aid of a GPS receiver; data which becomes obsolete every times the geosatellite passes by. Not for us the sheer hard, footslogging of travelling survey teams. Which makes the hand drawn survey maps all the more impressive. This may only be the surface with marginal notes on the topography and its flora. But these early geographical surveys are records of systematic exploration, and an expanding state economy. They provide us with time, date and location markers for the start of movements of livestock and other traffic which may have contributed to the distribution of zoonotic and environmental diseases. 

London is a complex city with many faces, and much to occupy the traveller beyond the headline tourist attractions. It brings to mind the sort of list you can probably find somewhere on the Net: 

you know you’re in London when:

  • you recognise those old buildings from the label on a sauce bottle
  • you hear a clock chime the hour and think it’s the lead in to the news
  • the skyline has appeared in the Bill, Spooks and countless other series shown on the ABC
  • they warn you to ‘Mind the Gap’ even when it’s only a couple of centimetres
  • you can find your way round underground better than you can on top
  • there’s a coffee shop, sandwich chain and old world pub on every street
  • and the suburbs have names that must have been introduced by early Australian settlers

Leave a Reply