National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Sir John Boyd Orr (1880-1971)

Sir John Boyd Orr (1880-1971)

Nutritional physiologist and Nobel laureate

John Boyd Orr studied science and medicine at the University of Glasgow and was awarded the Bellahouston gold medal for his thesis. During the First World War he served as a medical officer, won the Military Cross at the Battle of the Somme and was appointed to the Distinguished Service Order after Passchendaele. He married Elizabeth Pearson Callum in 1915. From 1919 he was director of the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen where his research into health and nutrition led to the statutory provision of milk for children in Scotland. He was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society in 1932 and knighted in 1935. After the Second World War he was appointed Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation. He was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1949. The University of Glasgow's Boyd Orr Building for the general sciences was opened in 1972.

Birth in 1880

John Boyd Orr was born on 23 September 1880, the son of Robert Clark Orr, proprietor of house and land, and Annie Boyd. The entry in the statutory register of births for the district of Kilmaurs in Ayrshire gives the place of birth as Holland Green.

Birth entry for John Boyd Orr

Birth entry for John Boyd Orr (58 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1880/598/135

1881 to 1911 censuses

In 1881 John B Orr, six months, was enumerated at Holland Green in Kilmaurs. The household schedule is over two pages with his parents and three older brothers on the previous page.

1881 census return for John Boyd Orr

1881 census return for John Boyd Orr (43 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1881/598/7, page 19

In 1891 John B Orr, 10, scholar, was enumerated at Main Street, West Kilbride in Ayrshire. The birth places of his brothers and sisters recorded on the household schedule show that the family had moved from Saltcoats to Kilmaurs before settling in West Kilbride.

1891 census return for John Boyd Orr

1891 census return for John Boyd Orr (73 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1891/620/5, page 19

In 1901 John B Orr, 20, pupil teacher, was enumerated at the same address with his family. The census return for the district of West Kilbride shows that he was categorised as a 'worker' and his father an 'employer'.

1901 census return for John Boyd Orr

1901 census return for John Boyd Orr (47 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1901/620/, page 18

In 1911 John Boyd Orr, 30, student of medicine, was enumerated at 26 White Street in Partick. The census returns shows that he was the joint head of household with his brother, Andrew Clark Orr, 22, student of science.

1911 census return for John Boyd Orr, part 1

1911 census return for John Boyd Orr, part 2

1911 census return for John Boyd Orr (25 and 24 KB jpegs)
National Records of Scotland, 1911/646-3/23, page 14

Death in 1971

John Boyd Orr, farmer and scientist, died on 25 June 1971 at Newton of Stracathro. The entry in the statutory register for the district of Brechin in the county of Angus gives his age as 90 (National Records of Scotland, 1971/257/97)