From Gidea Park to Africa: Peter’s fantastic journey
18:00 06 July 2014
Having grown up a stone’s throw from Gidea Park train station, a world-renowned scientist has gone on to save millions of lives across Africa with his low-cost sanitation technologies.
Dr Peter Morgan MBE, who attended the Royal Liberty School in Upper Brentwood Road, Gidea Park, has lived in Africa since 1968, inventing solutions that help to provide clean water to people across the continent.
He gained a PhD in marine biology at the University of Hull before moving to Malawi, and then Zimbabwe, where he has carried out most of his pioneering work. He has served as president of the Scientific Association and edited the Zimbabwe Science News, as well as advised numerous other African countries on rural water supplies and sanitation.
Last year Dr Morgan was given the world’s most prestigious water award, the Stockholm Water Prize Laureate, and now his old university is following suit by honouring him.
So how did it all start for the boy from Balgores Lane? As he prepares to accept his honorary award of Doctor of Science at Hull, Dr Morgan spoke to the Recorder about his Gidea Park memories.
He said: “Thanks to excellent teaching, I did quite well at the Liberty and went to Hull to study zoology, then did a Ph.D.
“My supervisor, John Sudd, persuaded me to travel to Africa for a year and I took up a post as research fellow in limnology [freshwater science] at the University of Malawi and stayed three years studying the fish and fisheries of Lake Chilwa, near Zomba.”
He then worked at the Ministry of Health’s Blair Research Laboratory in what was then Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, studying health technology and the provision of improved water supplies, hygiene and sanitation, particularly for deprived rural areas.
He has come a long way from “making and tinkering about with Meccano sets and model trains,” which he was so fond of as a youngster. “I watched nature programmes on the early TV (early 1950s) and developed an interest in nature and wild life,” he said. “We used to walk through streams and brooks collecting newts and frogs by the river banks.
“The duel interest of the natural world and technical innovation were beginning to grow, together with an active interest in fishing, painting and photography. I did a lot of my studies in a wooden hut at the bottom of the garden.”
His current role is director at Aquamor, a not-for-profit company working in rural water supply in Zimbabwe.
His work has helped a large number of the 780 million people worldwide living without access to safe water and the 2.5 billion people who do not have access to adequate sanitation. Diseases linked to such deprivation kill more than 5,000 people each day.
Dr Graham Scott, of the University of Hull, said: “Dr Peter Morgan has developed many innovative solutions in water, sanitation and hygiene that have immeasurably changed the lives of millions of people.”
Dr Morgan is renowned as one of the leading creators and proponents of ecological sanitation solutions. His “eco-san” toilets – which make compost – are now in use in countries across the globe.
But as he reminisces about his childhood, it is clear he has not forgotten his roots.
He added: “Looking back, I owe much to those formative years in Gidea Park, which in one way or the other shaped the course of my life.”