Discover story of Tim and Joy Gordon’s lifetime studying and illustrating tropical disease at Museum of Liverpool

News article 13 Sep 2023

The fascinating story of Professor Tim and Dr Joy Gordon, who got engaged on LSTM’s roof and spent a lifetime studying and illustrating tropical diseases together, has been told in a new display case within the atrium of the Museum of Liverpool.

The contents of the display case form part of LSTM’s 125th anniversary celebrations which aims to explore how LSTM’s early scientists have impacted on its science and work today.

The cases, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the LSTM-Past, Present, and Future project, aim to introduce the museum visitors to Tim and Joy Gordon whose story has captivated many at LSTM.

Tim Gordon gained a Diploma in Tropical Medicine at LSTM and joined the staff, working in the research laboratory in Manos (Brazil) in the tropical ward of the Liverpool Royal Infirmary, and as Assistant Director and then Director of the Sir Alfred Jones Research Laboratory in Freetown (Sierra Leone).

 In 1930 he became the Professor of Tropical Diseases of Africa at the University of Liverpool, and subsequently filled the chairs of Entomology and Parasitology. In 1958, he received LSTM’s highest award, the Mary Kingsley Medal, for his contributions to tropical medicine. He was also a recipient of the Chalmers Medal and an O.B.E. 

In 1943, after proposing on the roof of the Mary Kingsley Building at LSTM, he married Joycelyn Cronin Lowe (Joy), one of the first women to qualify as a doctor at Edinburgh University.

Both made multiple trips overseas and detailed their journeys abroad in pictures and letters sent home. One such way of staying in touch were postcards, drawn by Dr Joy Gordon, which reflected various tropical disease vectors in various ‘human’ settings.

Clare Maher, LSTM’s Communications and Public Engagement Officer, said: “It was an absolute pleasure to work on the Tim and Joy Gordon exhibition, their stories and drawings are so beautiful and descriptive and give a real insight into their surroundings at the time. It's a real human story and I hope that visitors are as impressed by the dedication to their research as I was.”

Elli Wright, Public Engagement Manager at LSTM, continued: “I am delighted we have been able to bring the narrative of Tim and Joy Gordon to the Museum of Liverpool as part of the LSTM-Past, Present, and Future project. Joy’s beautiful and detailed illustrations, tell the story of LSTM’s research at that time in a manner that is relatable and charming.”

“We have been asking the people of Liverpool to draw their own illustrations, using Joy’s drawings as inspiration, at other events part of the LSTM-Past, Present, and Future project and some of these are displayed in the case.”

Visit the Museum of Liverpool at the Pier Head to explore Tim and Joy’s story from now until the 6th November 2023.

Find information about the Museum of Liverpool opening times here. Read about LSTM’s events at the World Museum relating to LSTM-Past, Present, and Future here.

This work is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and LSTM would like to thank lottery players for their support in enabling this important project to go ahead.