John Brian McFerran

  • Born: 1931 (United Kingdom)
  • Died: 2012
  • Inducted: 2013
Born in Belfast, Brian McFerran gained his veterinary qualification at the University of Edinburgh in 1956. He completed a PhD degree in 1960 at the Department of Medical Microbiology, Queen’s University Belfast, and was a research fellow there from 1960-62. In 1962 he joined the staff of the Veterinary Research Laboratories (VRL) of the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland, and remained there until his retirement in 1992. He founded and headed the virology department at VRL Stormont from 1962 to 1987. He was appointed Deputy Director of VRL in 1968, and from 1987 until his retirement was jointly Director of VRL and Professor of Veterinary Science in Queen’s University Belfast. He was Vice-Chairman of the Animal Health Section of the Scientific Veterinary Committee of the European Economic Community from 1981-1992.

Although best known for his work on poultry viruses, Brian also worked on virus diseases of cattle, sheep and pigs. He has published work on avian adenoviruses and paramyxoviruses, infectious bursal disease virus, chicken anaemia virus and a number of viruses that cause enteric problems in poultry. He led work that identified an impressive number of previously unknown viruses, including Egg Drop Syndrome (EDS) virus. Based on his epidemiological observations, Brian devised an eradication scheme for EDS in Northern Ireland, and the disease was eradicated within 19 months from its initial recognition; this was a remarkable achievement.

When he retired in 1992, Brian had published approximately 120 papers in peer-reviewed journals. His contribution to veterinary science was recognised by awards from industry, academia and the state, including the Dr Bart Rispens’ Research Award in 1977 and a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1992.

A larger than life character, both literally and metaphorically, who enjoyed life to the full, Brian will be remembered as an inspirational figure, and with great affection, by those fortunate enough to have known him. Outside work, he was an enthusiastic gardener and woodworker. He had a keen interest in sport, particularly cricket and rugby.
He was survived by his widow Nancy, and children Donald, Zoe and Bruce.

WVPA thanks Stewart McNulty for compiling this profile.

< back to honours list