11 Aug 2022

Statue to be erected in Ramelton to honour Nobel Laureate, Professor William C Campbell

Plans to coincide with Nobel winner's 90th birthday next year

Statue to be erected in Ramelton to honour Nobel Laureate, Professor William C Campbell

Minister McHugh meeting Jean and Brian Winston, Anne Campbell and RCSI’s Professor Cathal Kelly in Dublin

Plans to honour Nobel Laureate, Professor William C Campbell with a statue in Ramelton have been revealed by Minister Joe McHugh. 
The bronze statue is being designed with the aim of being erected in Ramelton, where he was born, in time for his 90th birthday next June.

Professor William C Campbell

The plan for professor Campbell's birthday is being developed under the Bill Campbell Legacy Project spearheaded by the Ramelton Town Hall Development Company.  The plan has the backing of leading academic institutions, including the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI), Letterkenny IT and other universities, Donegal County Council and businesses.

Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh said: “For people who aren’t familiar with Professor Campbell, his life’s work is a truly remarkable story. We are talking about one of the most inspirational people on the planet. He has arguably done more for humanity than any other Irish person.

“When we think of the Irish diaspora, and the mark that our country has left around the world, Professor Campbell is up there with the best of them. His childhood on the farm in Ramelton, his education and passion for science and his commitment to research, led to hundreds of millions of people being saved from the horrific disease that is River Blindness,” he said.

Minister McHugh added: “I was delighted to row in behind the Ramelton committee, led by Jean Winston, and their idea for a statue and then to facilitate work to galvanise backing for the plan. That has led to great support from Professor Cathal Kelly, head of RCSI, as well as Professor Campbell’s sister-in-law Ann, who lives in Ramelton, and many others.

“A meeting in the Dublin earlier this month with Jean and Brian Winston, Anne, Cathal really set the wheels in motion. The idea builds on the scholarship I developed in Bill Campbell’s name after being appointed Minister for Education and Skills. The first person awarded with the bursary is Syrian refugee Suaad Alshleh, for her medical studies in RCSI.

“I want to do more to honour the professor. I have worked with the Ramelton group for some time, and now we are at the stage where a sculptor is preparing for the statue to coincide with the Professor’s birthday next year. It is great news.”

Minister McHugh will confirm further details on the project in coming weeks.

About Bill Campbell

Born in Ramelton in 1930, Bill Campbell was educated in Campbell College, Belfast and Trinity College, Dublin where he studied Zoology. His passion for science was said to have been sparked by a fascination with worms on his family farm in Donegal.

He went on to the University of Wisconsin on a Fulbright Scholarship, earning his PhD degree in 1957 for work on the liver fluke, a parasite affecting sheep, cattle and also human populations.

From 1957 to 1990 Professor Campbell worked at Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research, specialising mostly in parasitic diseases, including on the development of the drug ivermectin for the control of parasitic infections in veterinary medicine. 

He had the vision to realise that it could control parasitic disease in humans. It was ground-breaking. Merck began successful trials in 1981 on River Blindness in Senegal and France. The research had created a new class of drugs for the treatment of parasites.

With the unwavering support of Professor Campbell and his colleagues, Merck and the World Health Organization created an unprecedented drug donation programme, providing Mectizan to developing countries and in doing so eradicated River Blindness in parts of the world. It went on to be used to treat millions of people in 33 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. 

As of 2013, the Carter Center independently verified that the disease had been eradicated in Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico.

In 2015, Professor Campbell and his co-discoverer, Professor Satoshi Ōmura, shared the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their research on therapies against infections caused by roundworm parasites.

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