Intelligence chiefs allegedly questioned why he wasn’t married. But his phenomenal work output, would certainly have left little room for a family life. As a researcher, Professor Whitty was awarded $40million (£31mn) by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for malaria research.
According to academic search engine Microsoft Scholar, the professor is named as an author on more than 200 scientific papers. Topics range from the overdiagnosis of malaria in Tanzania, the use of steroids to treat meningitis in sub-Saharan Africa, and the death rate for mothers who undergo C-sections in Malawi.
During his time treating AIDS victims in Malawi, Professor Whitty began to gain a reputation for saying what he regards as uncomfortable truths. In an academic article written in 1999, he said public health is ‘not a branch of morality’ and that ‘taking a stern moral line can sometimes be highly effective’.
Professor Whitty, the youngest of four boys, spent much of his childhood in northern Nigeria after being born in Limpsfield, 11miles (18km) south of Croydon. As a teenager in 1984, he tragically lost his father – who worked for the British Council – when he was shot three times in the head while driving in Athens.
The New York Times reported at the time that his 44-year-old father, Kenneth, was flagged down by a gunman at an intersection who asked him to roll down his window. After studying at Pembroke College, Oxford, Professor Whitty worked as a doctor across Africa and Asia, where he treated malaria patients and published a vast array of academic papers at the same time.
The hard-working medic also somehow found time to study for an Open University diploma in Economics and gained an MBA from Heriott-Watt University. Eyebrows were raised by the security service when he first joined the government, as the chief scientific adviser for the Department for International Development in 2009.