M - O

MacDonald Theodore

Theodore MacDonald

 

Professor Theodore Harney MacDonald, or Theo, as so many knew him, may be remembered best by our readers as the author of Hippocrates in Havana, Schooling the Revolution, and the more recent The Education Revolution, the latter under the imprint of Manifesto Press.  Personal knowledge, experience and a deep commitment to health and human rights were the guiding principles in all of his 59 published books.

 

Theo was born in Quebec, Canada in 1933, one of six children. The family's early years were difficult and when Theo was 10, their mother left home. The family was looked after by Theo's 13-year-old sister. A beautiful singing voice led to him becoming immersed in the Catholic Church as an acolyte, with the Jesuits taking him in and educating him. A very early Baccalaureate and a first class music degree aged 12 led to him becoming a teacher at 13 in rural Canada.

 

A later first-class honours degree in mathematics and epidemiology were to follow from McGill University. Working as a 17-year-old in the Canadian Wild Life Service introduced him to every National Park and gave him a lifelong commitment to the natural world.

 

In 1960 he travelled the US, working with the Martin Luther King group before visiting Cuba over the period of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Consequently Cuba's progress became a life-long passion of his and the above-mentioned books were a result of several working visits to the island. He combined meticulous research and a deep engagement with the motivating principles of that new society.

 

His developing ethical and political understanding led to his expulsion from the US for opposing segregation and he went to Australia, gaining the chair of mathematics at Monash University. Naturally, Theo opposed the war against Vietnam, a far from popular sentiment in Australia in those times.  Subsequent work as a WHO and Unesco officer and consultant led to him teaching in Jamaica, the Solomon Islands and several other countries where a legacy of colonialism still causes severe problems of cultural, ethnic and religious strife.

 

Academic appointments at the British School of Osteopathy and at Brunel University as Professor of Health Promotion were followed in 2002 by a "pseudo-retirement."

During this period he attended conferences, presented academic (in the best sense of that title) papers and lectures, while writing books with a commitment and style that leaves one breathless.

 

In the 20 years I have known him Theo has published at least nine books, most of them with failing eyesight. His Communist Review booklet Neoliberalism is Bad for Your Health was published a couple of years back, and is a distillate of a lifetime's commitment to the most fundamental of human rights - to health, peace and creative work. His thorough understanding of human physiology has meant that the negative effects of the present, dominant, economic system is a leitmotiv throughout his published work.

 

Theo's last book, Preserving the United Nations, Our Best Hope for Mediating Human Rights, was completed in time for publication in 2010 and can be best seen as the product of a coolly analytical mind, of great humanity and high principles, yet also of deep humility.

 

His long years of casting about in the political wilderness and intimate contact with that ostracised society on the big Caribbean island led almost inexorably to his joining the Communist Party of Britain and contributing to the Communist University. His life's work touched so many that he is already sadly missed.

 

But we must take comfort, too, from the fact that, in all essentials, Theo lived and died a communist. He is survived by his wife and eight children and his funeral took place in Sussex.

 

Obituary by Roger Fletcher in the Morning Star 24th March 2011