W. E. (‘Kits’) van Heyningen has had a many-sided career: born in South Africa, he arrived in England in 1934 to carry out research on bacterial toxins, first at the Sir William Dunn Institute of Biochemistry, Cambridge, and then at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford. There he joined Sir Howard Florey, and continued his research, on dysentery, tetanus, and cholera, which has taken him to many parts of the world.
Apart from his research work, he has taken an important part in the life of Oxford University, having served on the Hebdomadal Council, and the governing bodies of the Bodleian Library and the Ashmolean Museum, as well as playing a major role in the foundation of St. Cross College, of which he was the first Master.
In 1940 he married Ruth Treverton, a leading researcher on the biochemistry of the eye. They have a son who has followed in his parents’ scientific footsteps, a daughter who is an architect, and four grandchildren.
In The Key to Lockjaw Kits writes with clarity, compassion, and with humour, not only about his life but also his work and the subjects of his research, and, in so doing, sets the record straight on more than one popular misconception.