1 June Almeida, who discovered the first human coronavirus, was the daughter of a bus driver from Glasgow. She was born June Hart in 1930 and grew up in a tenement on Duntroon Street near Alexandra Park. At the age of 16, she left school to work as a histopathology technician at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and then moved to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.

2 In 1954, she married Enriques Rosalio (Henry) Almeida, a Venezuelan artist. They had a daughter, Joyce and moved to Toronto in Canada where Dr Almeida worked at the Ontario Cancer Institute as an electronmicroscopist. Despite having few qualifications, she was promoted in line with her outstanding abilities.

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3 Her work was a forerunner of the kind of research being done today as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to hold the world in its grip. Covid-19 is a new illness, but it caused by a coronavirus of the type first identified by Dr Almeida when she returned to London in 1964 to work at St Thomas’s Hospital (where Prime Minister Boris Johnson was treated when he was suffering from the virus.)

4 Dr Almeida developed a method to better visualise viruses by using antibodies. She worked on hepatitis B and the cold virus. She also produced the first images of the rubella virus using immune electron microscopy. Working with David Tyrrell, she characterised a new type of virus now called coronavirus, a family which includes the SARS virus

5 Dr Almeida has been described as “one of the greatest scientists of her generation” whose work has speeded up current understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Chinese used her technology to identify it. She published a WHO manual for rapid laboratory viral diagnosis in 1979. After retiring, she became an antique dealer and a yoga teacher. She died in 2007, aged 77.