Friday 29 May 2015
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What was the Peckham Experiment?

The Peckham Experiment was an investigation into the nature of health. It ran from 1926 – 1950 in Peckham, south London. It operated from the Pioneer Health Centre, a purpose-built centre in which Doctors observed families interacting in a social setting. The Experiment concluded that health is more than just an absence of disease, and identified the crucial role played by the environment in promoting health.

Why is it of interest today?

The research undertaken at the Pioneer Health Centre was a unique study into the health of individuals, families and a community, which has never been repeated. Its findings have had an impact around the world on professionals seeking to improve health and wellbeing. 

The Experiment has lessons for those involved in architecture, health promotion and health education, education, training, sports, nutrition, preconception care and pregnancy, child development, research methodology, community development, social cohesion and diversity.

What did the researchers find?

The Doctors drew an extensive list of important conclusions. In summary, the most important were: 

  • Health is a process that has to be cultivated if it is to thrive. 
  • If people are given information about themselves and their families they will attempt to make decisions that are in the best interests of their families.
  • People thrive when they are given the freedom to make choices about their activities and will choose those that help in their development.
  • When people are given resources in a community to enable them to grow they will be active in their community for the benefit of that community.
About us

The Pioneer Health Centre closed in 1950 but the Pioneer Health Foundation continues to promote the legacy and the ideas of the Centre.  

Despite the many changes to society and medicine since the Pioneer Health Centre first opened its doors, we believe that the principles identified by the Doctors as contributing to health are of continuing relevance to society.


The Peckham Experiment was a unique study into the nature of health, led by Dr. George Scott Williamson and Dr. Innes Pearse. The Doctors decided to observe families in a community setting, to monitor the factors that contributed to human health. In the purpose-built Pioneer Health Centre, they conducted annual medical checks and watched families interacting in social activities.

Recognising the importance of sound nutrition, the Doctors also rented a farm to provide the Centre’s kitchen with fresh organic food. The research began in Peckham, south London, in 1926 and ended with the Centre’s closure in 1950.  

The findings originating from the research conducted at the Pioneer Health Centre, commonly refered to as ‘the Peckham Experiment’, have influenced authorities across the world including the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Please click on the links in the menu above to learn about the history of the Peckham Experiment.

Relevance today

The Pioneer Health Foundation believes there is continuing interest and importance in the work of Drs Scott Williamson and Pearse and the pioneering Peckham Experiment. 

Though the Doctors did not leave a blueprint for their study (this would have been dictatorial), their writing and findings share useful lessons that remain relevant today.

Please click on the links in the menu above to learn more about the relevance of the Peckham Experiment today.


The Pioneer Health Foundation maintains a range of resources relating to the Pioneer Health Centre, from films and photographs through to published books and articles.  

Please click on the links in the menu above to learn more about the resources available. If you can't find what you want, please do contact us.