Walter Hadwen

Walter Robert Hadwen MRCS MRCP (3 August 1854 – 27 December 1932) was an English general practitioner, pharmaceutical chemist and writer. He was president of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) and an anti-vaccination campaigner, known for his denial of the germ theory of disease.

Walter Hadwen

Dr Walter Hadwen.jpg
Walter Robert Hadwen

3 August 1854
Woolwich, England
Died27 December 1932 (1932-12-28) (aged 78)
Gloucester, England
Alma materBristol University
  • General practitioner
  • pharmaceutical chemist
  • writer
  • anti-vivisection and anti-vaccination activist
Alice Harral
(m. 1878)


Walter Robert Hadwen was born in Woolwich on 3 August 1854.[1] He began his career as a pharmacist in Clapham then Somerset, then subsequently trained as a doctor at Bristol University. After qualifying, he moved to Gloucester in 1896. Hadwen was recruited as a member of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection by its founder and then president Frances Power Cobbe who hired a private investigator to assess his credentials (he was a vegetarian and total abstainer, had a reputation as a "firebrand" orator and was held in "high local esteem"). She subsequently selected him as her successor.[2]

He later became a member of the Plymouth Brethren and married Alice Harral in 1878; they had three children.[3] Hadwen was a frequent speaker for the National Anti-Vaccination League. He was also a member of the London Association for the Prevention of Premature Burial (founded in 1896). Hadwen stated that the "modern germ theory is all bosh".[4]

Hadwen was active in general practice until he died from a severe heart attack in 1932, age 78.[5] In his honour the Dr Hadwen Trust was founded in 1970 to fund exclusive non-animal techniques to replace animal experiments.[5]


Hadwen became a vegetarian in his early twenties when taking a bet from a fellow student that he could live six months without eating meat. His bet was successful and he stated that "For my part I am quite satisfied with my trial of vegetarianism, and it would take more than mortal power to persuade me once again to make my stomach a graveyard for the purpose of burying dead bodies in."[5]

Manslaughter trialEdit

In 1924, having applied his rejection of the germ theory of disease, and his refusal to use diphtheria anti-serum produced by inoculation of animals to the treatment of Nellie Burnham, a young girl, she died and he was tried for manslaughter by criminal medical negligence.[6] He was acquitted of all charges.[7][8]

Selected publicationsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Alternatives to Laboratory Animals: ATLA. Vol. 37. Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments. 2009. p. 43.
  2. ^ Mitchell, Sally. (2004). Frances Power Cobbe: Victorian Feminist, Journalist, Reformer. University of Virginia Press. p. 360. ISBN 0-8139-2271-2
  3. ^ "Dr Walter Robert Hadwen". Retrieved 6 January 2022.
  4. ^ "Verdict of Manslaughter Against Dr. Hadwen by Coroner's Jury". Journal of the American Medical Association. 83 (14): 1090. 1924.
  5. ^ a b c Mills, Daniel S. (2010). The Encyclopedia of Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare. CABI. pp. 188-189. ISBN 9780851997247
  6. ^ The Times up to and including 30 October 1924.
  7. ^ "Acquittal of Dr. Hadwen". Journal of the American Medical Association. 83 (20): 1601. 1924.
  8. ^ "Topics of the Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 December 2020.

Further readingEdit

  • Who Was Dr Hadwen Biography at Dr Hadwen Trust.
  • Walter Hadwen Biography by Walter Hawkins.
  • Bodily Matters: The Anti-Vaccination Movement in England, 1853-1907, Nadja Durbach, 2005, Duke University Press, ISBN 0-8223-3423-2
  • Hadwen of Gloucester: Man, Medico, Martyr, by Beatrice E. Kidd and M. Edith Richards, 1933, John Murray, London.
  • Obituary, The Times, Saturday, 25 February 1933 John Murray, London, 1933.