Discoverer Richard Cremer
Richard Cremer
Born4 January 1925
Died25 January 2014 | Age 89

Richard Cremer 1956

Dr Cremer , with the help of Sister J Ward, discovered that sunlight could cure jaundice at the Rochford General Hospital in Essex.

Sister Ward

Ward was an old school nurse who was convinced sunshine and fresh air was more healthy than a stuffy hospital.
One warm summer day in the 1950s Sister J Ward took a premature baby outside. When she returned to the unit, the baby was a pale yellow except for a small bright yellow section which had been covered up by the baby’s sheet. The nurse suggested it had been caused by the sun, but her suggestion was not taken very seriously.

Sister Ward
Sister Ward

A short while after this incident a tube of blood from an infant with severe jaundice was placed on a windowsill before being taken to the lab for analysis. After sitting in the sun, the sample measurements were below 14 mg/100 mL so a fresh blood sample was taken and analysed which read 24 mg/100 mL. The blood sitting on the windowsill was measured again, and read even lower, at 9 mg/100 mL.

This was able to be reproduced again and again and caused researchers to investigate the effect of light on bilirubin.

Modern Treatment

Babies being treated with phototherapy
Babies being treated with phototherapy

It was found that the blue light (420-470 nm) converts bilirubin into a form that the body can excrete in the urine and faeces.
Phototherapy for jaundiced babies, is now used in almost every hospital in the world, resulting from a simple observation by Cremer in 1956 aided by Sister Ward. It is widely acknowledged as one of the major 20th century advances in paediatrics.
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