Nicholas Wald

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Sir Nicholas John Wald FRS FMedSci FRCP FRCOG(ad eundum) FFPH (born 31 May 1944) qualified in medicine from University College London in 1967. He is currently Honorary Professor of Preventive Medicine, Institute of Health Informatics, University College London, Visiting Professor, Population Health Research Institute, St George's University of London and Honorary Consultant and Adjunct Professor, Brown University RI USA. He was Professor of Environmental and Preventive Medicine from 1983 to 2019 at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College later to become Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. He was co-founder of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry and Chairman/Director from 1992-1995 and 1997-2013. He is "widely considered one of the world's leading epidemiologists".[1]

His present and past areas of research have been in the field of antenatal screening, the prevention of congenital malformations, the risks of passive smoking and the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. In the 1970s, he showed that fetal neural tube defects (spina bifida and anencephaly) could be detected by measuring alpha-fetoprotein in the pregnant woman’s blood [2]. This was the first example of effective screening for fetal abnormalities. He was the innovator of the “MoM”, or multiple of the median, a measure of the level of screening markers that has become standard in antenatal screening. In the field of antenatal screening for Down’s syndrome, trisomy 18 and 13 he, with colleagues, first described the Triple test (1988), Combined test (1998), Quad test (2003), Integrated test (1999) and Reflex DNA test (2015). With Ian Leck, Wald wrote and edited Antenatal and Neonatal Screening, which was awarded the Public Health Category of the 2001 BMA Medical Book Competition.

In 1986 Wald showed that environmental tobacco smoke was a cause of lung cancer [3] and was a member of the US National Academy of Sciences Committee - the first public body that reached this conclusion. Later, in 2003 with Professor Law, he showed that environmental tobacco smoke also caused cardiovascular disease.

In 1991 Professor Wald showed that folic acid supplementation prevented most cases of neural tube defects [4] and over 80 countries have now introduced mandatory folic acid fortification of flour and grains. In the same year, with colleagues, he quantified the effects of reducing salt intake to lower blood pressure. In 1999, together with Malcolm Law, he invented the polypill.[5][6] In 2011, in the Jephcott lecture at the Royal Society of Medicine he proposed a tax on sugar, alcohol, saturated fat and salt - a SASS tax – to be applied to ready-to-consume processed food and drink. [7]

He has received awards, including, in 2000, the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation Award.[8] Wald was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2004,[9] and was knighted in the 2008 Birthday Honours[10] for services to preventive medicine. In 2005 he was awarded DSc honoris causa by University College London. In 2012 he received the Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence. In 2015 he delivered the Royal College of Physicians of London Croonian Lecture on “Conceptual challenges in preventive medicine“. In 2019 he was elected a member of the US National Academy of Medicine.[11]


  1. ^ "A history of our pioneering research". Queen Mary University of London. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  2. ^ Wald, N.J.; Brock, D.J.H.; Bonnar, J. (1974). "Prenatal Diagnosis of Spina Bifida and Anencephaly by Maternal Serum-Alpha-Fetoprotein Measurement". The Lancet. 303 (7861): 765–767. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(74)92838-4. PMID 4132705.
  3. ^ Wald, N (February 1986). Environmental Tobacco Smoke: Measuring Exposures and Assessing Health Effects. National Academies Press. ISBN 9780309074568.
  4. ^ Wald, NJ; Densem, J; Frost, C; Stone, R (1991-07-20). "Prevention of neural tube defects: Results of the Medical Research Council Vitamin Study". The Lancet. 338 (8760): 131–137. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(91)90133-A.
  5. ^ Wald, NJ; Law, MR (2003). "A strategy to reduce cardiovascular disease by more than 80%". BMJ. 326 (7404): 1419–23. doi:10.1136/bmj.326.7404.1419. PMC 162259. PMID 12829553.
  6. ^ "Polypill Patent". European Patent Register. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  7. ^ Wald, N. Nutrition in prevention: time for a SASS tax. In: The future of prevention in cardiovascular disease. Royal Society of Medicine Press Ltd. pp. 42–55. ISBN 9781853159749.
  8. ^ "2000 Kennedy Foundation International Awards to be Given at Gala Event in Seattle". March of Dimes. 2 August 2000. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  9. ^ "Professor Nicholas Wald elected Fellow of the Royal Society". 28 May 2004. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  10. ^ "Birth defect test guru knighted". BBC News. 14 June 2008. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  11. ^ "National Academy of Medicine Elects 100 New Members". National Academy of Medicine. Retrieved 8 November 2019.

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