Professor Sir Richard Peto was born in 1943 in Reading, U.K. He studied natural sciences and mathematics at Cambridge University and statistics at London University. After working for two years at the MRC Statistical Research Unit in London, he moved with Professor Sir Richard Doll in 1969 to Oxford. He is currently Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology and Co-Director of the Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU) at Oxford.
Professor Sir Richard Peto is one of the world’s leading epidemiologists. His work included studies of the causes of cancer in general, and of the effects of smoking in particular. He helped establish large-scale randomized trials of the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, breast cancer and other conditions and his work was instrumental in introducing combined ‘meta-analysis’ of results from linical trials. For more than 30 years, he worked alongside the late Professor Doll on elucidating the detrimental effects of tobacco. Together, they made the best known and the most consistently productive tobacco epidemiologists in the world. Their scientific contribution to this field was matched only by their ability to communicate their results with simple and effective messages that the public can understand.
In addition to his partnership with Doll in the cohort study on British doctors, Professor Sir Richard Peto initiated a series of very large studies of tobacco, blood pressure, obesity and death in China, India, Cuba, Egypt and Mexico. These studies, which involved retrospective investigations of the smoking habits of more than a million dead people and interviews with more than two million people, clearly showed that tobacco was already causing even more deaths in developing than in developed countries and that the health risks of smoking will rise. Peto’s landmark study with Alan Lopez (WHO, Geneva) concluded that about one billion people were likely to die of conditions associated with tobacco in the 21st Century if current smoking patterns persisted. In recent years, Peto extended his research to reveal the beneficial effects of smoking cessation. His ongoing international studies are having a major impact on health policies of many countries.
Professor Peto published hundreds of papers and reviews in leading scientific journals and conference proceedings. His scholarship is widely recognized; in addition to the King Faisal International Prize, he received numerous other prizes, honorary degrees, fellowships, visiting professorships, named lectureships and memberships of academic institutions and learned societies both in the U.K. and abroad. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999 for his services to epidemiology and cancer prevention.
Professors Richard Peto, has been awarded the prize, for his pioneering and profoundly valuable epidemiologic research that has unequivocally established the link between tobacco and various diseases, such as vascular diseases and cancers, and has, in addition, served to propagate further research elucidating the molecular mechanisms of tobacco mediated cellular damage and DNA mutations. indeed, so great has the impact of his studies been that several national health policies have been modified as a result of these findings. The WHO itself changed its position on smoking which culminated in a demonstrable decline in deaths related to cancer and atherosclerotic vascular diseases in several developed countries. Such significant benefits have transcended to large populations of developing countries as well, proffering an immeasurable contribution to mankind.