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Last edited anonymously
December 31, 2010 | History

Roy T. Sawyer

1942 -

Roy T. Sawyer was born in Virginia, where his father was an administrator at Langley Air Force Base. As a child, he often visited his grandmother in Gum Neck, North Carolina, where he became familiar with the Dismal Swamps, which are among the world's most biologically diverse temperate wetlands. He discovered leeches when he was six years old, and has been interested in them ever since.

In 1964, he received a B.Sc. degree in biology from Wofford College in South Carolina. He went on to receive a master's in zoology from the University of Michigan. In 1967, he went to Swansea, South Wales, to study for his doctorate under Professor E. W. Knight-Jones at the University of Wales. It was there that he met his future-wife Lorna, an English-major undergraduate. At this point, he already had plans to write the definitive book on leeches.

In 1977 he set on a scientific expedition to the coastal marshes of French Guiana to locate specimens of Hementin, the giant Amazon leech. He later published a description of the trials of the expedition in an article for Natural History.

In 1983, he finished writing the a three-volume reference work on leeches called Leech Biology and Behaviour (1986), which was the result of twelve years of writing. After finishing his book, he opened Biopharm, the world's first leech farm, in Swansea, South Wales. The farm breeds Hirudo leeches for medical use. In 1985, his leeches were used to save the life of a 5-year-old boy in Boston, and medical leeches became accepted as good medical science. In 1990 he moved Biopharm from Swansea to nearby Hendy and added a laboratory room to the farm for research. In the 1990s, Biopharm patented over a dozen substances from leech saliva.

In 1997, he sold many of Biopharm's patents, closed his lab, and went into semi-retirement. He continues to collect leech memorabilia and to study the history of the leech trade. He is also working on a book about the swamps of North Carolina, where he encountered his first leech.


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December 31, 2010 Edited by DOB
April 12, 2010 Edited by Open Library Bot Added photos to author pages.
December 18, 2009 Edited by Sarah Breau Added birth year, added bio, added photo
September 12, 2008 Edited by RenameBot fix author name
April 1, 2008 Created by an anonymous user initial import