Chris Whitty

Christopher John MacRae Whitty CB FRCP FFPH FMedSci (born 21 April 1966) is a British physician and epidemiologist, who is Chief Medical Officer for England (CMO), Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government, Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) at the Department of Health and Social Care and Head of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).[1][2]

Chris Whitty

S960 - Chris Whitty - Chief Scientific Adviser (cropped).png
Chief Medical Officer for England
Assumed office
October 2019
Preceded bySally Davies
Personal details
Christopher John MacRae Whitty

(1966-04-21) 21 April 1966 (age 53)[1]
Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England[1]
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Northumbria University
Heriot-Watt University
ProfessionPhysician and epidemiologist

In March 2020, Whitty took a leading role in response to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom, alongside Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.[3]

Early life and educationEdit

Chris Whitty was born in Gloucester on 21 April 1966 to Kenneth and Susannah Whitty.[1] He spent his early years in north Nigeria. His father was Director of the British Council in Athens, but was killed in 1984, when Whitty was in his teens.[4][5][6]

Whitty was sent back to the UK for his schooling[7] and was educated at Windlesham House School and Malvern College. Following this, he was educated at Pembroke College, University of Oxford (BA, 1988), Wolfson College, Oxford (BM BCh, 1991), the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (DTM&H, 1996; MSc, 1996), Northumbria University (LLM, 2005) and Heriot-Watt University (MBA, 2010).[1][6]


Whitty is a practising National Health Service (NHS) consultant physician at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, and Gresham Professor of Physic at Gresham College.[8] Until becoming CMO he was Professor of Public and International Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).[9] In 2008, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the LSHTM £31 million for malaria research in Africa. At the time, Whitty was the principal investigator for the ACT Consortium, which conducted the research programme.[6][10]


Department for International Development (London office) (far right)

From 2009 to 2015, he was Chief Scientific Adviser and director of research for the Department for International Development (DFID).[2][6][11] During this time, he co-authored an article in Nature titled "Infectious disease: Tough choices to reduce Ebola transmission", explaining the UK government's response to Ebola in Sierra Leone, including the proposal to build and support centres where people could self-isolate voluntarily if they suspected that they could have the disease.[12]

From 2016 to 2019, he was Chief Scientific Adviser and head of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Department of Health and Social Care.[1] From 2017 to 2018, he was appointed interim Government Chief Scientific Adviser and head of the science and engineering profession in government,[1] when Novichok, the military nerve agent, was responsible for the 2018 Salisbury poisonings.[1][6]

2020 coronavirus outbreak in the United KingdomEdit

Whitty and his two deputies, Jenny Harries and Jonathan Van-Tam, took high-profile roles during the 2020 coronavirus outbreak in the United Kingdom.[13][14] This included appearing with prime minister Boris Johnson and alone in press briefings, and giving evidence to parliamentary bodies.[6] Whitty gave updates on developments of the virus in the UK, appearing in news conferences in Downing Street with Johnson and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.[3] From 19 March, Whitty appeared in public information adverts on national television explaining the government's social-distancing strategy to reduce the spread of the virus during the pandemic.[3][15] On 27 March, he was reported to be self-isolating owing to symptoms consistent with COVID-19 after Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock had tested positive for the virus.[16]

During the outbreak, BBC health editor Hugh Pym called him "the official who will probably have the greatest impact on our everyday lives of any individual policymaker in modern times".[3] The Guardian's sketch writer, John Crace, described him as "the Geek-in-Chief, whom everyone now regards as the country's de facto prime minister". At the same time, he was compared with James Niven, the Scottish physician known for reducing the death rate of influenza during the 1918 flu pandemic in Manchester.[17]

Awards and honoursEdit

Whitty was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 2015 New Year Honours.[18] He is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.[8]

Public lectures outlining his views on tackling current challenges in medicine and public health include Gresham lectures and the 2017 Harveian Oration at the Royal College of Physicians.[6][9][8]

Personal lifeEdit

Whitty is the eldest of four brothers.[7] He is unmarried, and does not have children. He is known to play tennis and believed to be keen on music. Otherwise he has been quoted by Whitehall sources as a "private person who never discusses his personal life."[6][3]

Selected publicationsEdit

  • "Infectious disease: Tough choices to reduce Ebola transmission". Nature. Vol. 515, Issue 7526 (13 November 2014). doi:10.1038/515192a (joint author)
  • "Harveian Oration 2017: Triumphs and challenges in a world shaped by medicine". Clinical Medicine. Vol. 17, No. 6 (December 2017), pp. 537–544. doi:10.7861/clinmedicine.17-6-537, PMC PMC6297683, PMID 29196355


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Whitty, Prof. Christopher John Macrae". Who's Who. 1 December 2018. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U250932. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Chief Medical Officer and DHSC Chief Scientific Adviser: Professor Chris Whitty". Department of Health and Social Care. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e Pym, Hugh (17 March 2020). "Chris Whitty: The man with our lives in his hands". BBC News. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  4. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (9 June 2000). "Diplomatic mission". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  5. ^ "Gunman Kills British Diplomat". The Glasgow Herald. 29 March 1984. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Sample, Ian; O'Carroll, Lisa (4 March 2020). "Prof Chris Whitty: the expert we need in the coronavirus crisis". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  7. ^ a b Neville, Sarah (13 March 2020). "Chris Whitty, disease expert leading the UK's coronavirus response". Financial Times. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  8. ^ a b c "Professor Chris Whitty". Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  9. ^ a b PHE. "Public Health Matters: Chris Whitty". Public Health England. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  10. ^ "London School of Hygiene celebrates new $59 million Gates funding". EurekAlert!. 6 March 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  11. ^ Waldman, Thomas; Barakat, Sultan; Varisco, Andrea (2016). "Annexe: Mapping research and policy". Understanding Influence: The Use of Statebuilding Research in British Policy. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 218. ISBN 978-1-472-42757-1.
  12. ^ "Infectious disease: Tough choices to reduce Ebola transmission | Ebola Response Anthropology Platform". Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  13. ^ "Meet Jenny Harries, the doctor talking sense in the coronavirus pandemic". The Telegraph. 23 March 2020. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  14. ^ "Coronavirus: UK trialling existing and new medicines". BBC News. 3 April 2020. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  15. ^ Heffer, Greg (18 March 2020). "Coronavirus: Government to air first TV adverts with advice for Britons". Sky News. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  16. ^ "Coronavirus: Chief medical officer Chris Whitty self-isolates with symptons". Sky News. Sky. 27 March 2020.
  17. ^ Pidd, Helen (27 March 2020). "First 'Geek-in-Chief': shy Scot who paved way for Prof Chris Whitty". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  18. ^ "New Year's Honours lists 2015" (PDF). Government of the United Kingdom: Cabinet Office and Foreign Office. 8 January 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
Government offices
Preceded by
Dame Sally Davies
Chief Medical Officer for England
2019 to present