The History of the BDA and Dietetics

The earliest dietary observations in hospitals go back to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1687. Evidence of the first therapuetic diet comes from the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, in 1837 when observers noted 'the diet which suffering and exhausted nature sometimes requires after operations (mutton chops)'.  However dietetics really started from the middle of the nineteenth century when Florence Nightingale observed the importance of diet and nutrition to convalescence from the wars at that time.

Following the appearance of the first dietitians in the United States at the start of the twentieth century we know that the first UK dietitians came from nursing sisters, then working in hospitals. The Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was the first known hospital to develop a dietetic department in 1924 with Miss R Pybus appointed as its first head. Indeed the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was again a leading institution in dietetics when the first dietetic diploma course emerged around ten years after the creation of its dietetic department.

The BDA’s history also emerged around the same time. The very first meeting of the Association was held on 24 January 1936 at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Since then the BDA has grown into an internationally respected and valued organisation with influence in all four UK countries as well as overseas.

Throughout this whole period we have been fortunate to have witnessed great pioneers and leaders in public health and human nutrition. We have also lived through radical changes in diet and attitudes to food and health.

The history books

For those wanting to read more about the history of the BDA and the profession we have three publications freely available.

historycover3The first volume was written in 1961 by Enid Hutchinson and covered the 25-year period between1936-1961. The second book focused on the next 25 years, 1961-1986, and was edited by Carol Bateman. The latest volume is dedicated to the period from 1986-2011, and captures the rapid development of the BDA and dietetics during this period. This was written by Dr Pat Judd.

Note: parts 1 and 2 are scanned from the original documents, so may display typographical errors.

The BDA crest and logo

The BDA's crest was awarded by the College of Arms and depicts an Ibex (Mountain Goat) perched upon a Cornucopia. The symbolism was designed to depict 'balance' (the Ibex) in the 'time of plenty' (the Cornucopia). This underlines the philosophy of good nutrition: that, while we enjoy a relative wealth of food and nutrition, we need to balance this according to our needs.

In 2014, the BDA developed a new corporate image to go alongside its new website and corporate strategy. However the traditional crest is not lost and will continue to be used on formal legal documents, awards and honours. It also remains associated with the BDA's General and Education Trust Fund.

Research indicates that whilst the word ‘Dietetic’ is understood by BDA members, it is less clearly understood, or recognised, by members of the public or the media. ‘The Association of UK Dietitians’ says exactly who the organisation is. In addition, the abbreviation ‘BDA’ is commonly used by members and external agencies when referring to the organisation, hence the reason for adopting this contraction in the logo.

In terms of design, the complex heraldry (and the ibex) are replaced by a cleaner, bolder and more functional look that is more closely aligned to the organisation’s personality and overall strategic direction. The leaf device within the logo denotes a generalised nod to nutrition without resorting to sector clichés of apples etc.; the previous dark blue palette is replaced by a brighter, bolder hue to reflect the organisation’s authority, professionalism and integrity.

The BDA archive

The BDA has a well catalogued archive of material, describing the birth of the profession and the Association, from its founding in 1936 through to the end of the 20th century. Carefully curated by past Chairman Edith Elliot over many years, the archive of material was donated to the Wellcome Trust in 2014. The Wellcome Trust intends to fully document and index the archive and make it more publicly available. When we have more details about the date when the archive will be made available, information will be posted here.

Audio archive - Pat Torrens

The BDA is also pleased that in recent times an audio archive about the life of the late Pat Torrens has been made available through 'Diabetes Stories'. It is a fascinating insight into one of the most influential dietitians of the 20th century. Pat was also subject to a mention on the BBC Radio 4 series 'Last Word'.