Hugh Macdonald Sinclair, FRCP (4 February 1910 – 22 June 1990) was a doctor, medical researcher, and expert in human nutrition. He was a Fellow of Magdalen from 1937-1980.
Born in Edinburgh, he was educated at Winchester College and Oriel College, Oxford. He achieved a First in physiology in 1932. He was elected a demonstrator and lecturer in biochemistry at Oxford University, and became a Fellow of Magdalen, in 1937. He created the Oxford Nutrition Survey in 1941, serving as director until 1947. His post-war surveys and work for this Ministry of Health lead to his appointment as an officer of the order of Orange Nassau in 1951 and the US medal of Freedom with silver palm in 1946.
The ONS gave way to the University Laboratory of Human Nutrition, of which Sinclair was Director until 1955. He was reader in Human Nutrition from 1951-1958, but fell out with his superiors and lost both the directorship, readership and fellowship at Magdalen. He became instead a research fellow at Magdalen, during which time he published his famous letter to the Lancet on 6 April 1956. The letter proposed that a deficiency of essential fatty acids in human diets leads to an increased risk of lung cancer, coronary thrombosis and leukemia. The speculative nature of the letter was unpopular with his seniors. This forced him in part to set up an independent nutrition institute. In 1965 he was forced to sell his medical library for £90,000 to escape insolvency.
In 1972 Sinclair registered a nutrition charity, which later became the International Nutrition Foundation. It was based in at his estate, Lady Place, in Sutton Courtenay. He planned to build a research centre there, but failed to raise the £12 million needed.
From 1970 to 1980, Sinclair served as a visiting professor at Reading. At the age of 70 he performed his famous Inuit diet experiment; he ate his way through a seal, with the results supporting his view that unsaturated fatty acids might diminish coronary thrombosis.
He died on 22 June 1990 in the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, from a gastric carcinoma, leaving his estate to the INF, which in turn funded the establishment of the Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition at the University of Reading.
Brian B. Lloyd, ‘Sinclair, Hugh Macdonald (1910–1990)’, rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
This collection was given to the archives in July 2011 by the University of Reading as Accession Number 11/121. Reading continues to hold a larger collection of Sinclair’s papers not directly related to his time at Magdalen. The bulk of the collection came as folders named by Sinclair, with their contents as he used them. The folder titles and contents have been maintained as received, though they have been arranged according to his teaching and administrative duties at Magdalen.
Catalogued in November 2011 by Sean Rippington