The date and place of birth of Alan Powell Goffe are matters of some uncertainty; the date is variously given as July 1920, or July 1921. Some accounts state that he was born in Jamaica, but there seems no indication that his parents ever visited the island before their trip in 1935. In which case his place of birth is for the present unknown.
Alan Goffe was educated at Epsom College, and then for a year at the Institut auf den Rosenberg at St Gallen, Switzerland. He studied medicine at University College Hospital and obtained the M.B., B.S. (Lond.) in 1944. In 1943 he married Elizabeth Olive Hedge, the adopted daughter of William and Maud Hedge; her birth father was Reg Connelly, a songwriter who was the co-author of 'Show me the way to go home' and other songs. The couple had three sons, one of whom, Hugh, died of bone cancer in 1963, and two daughters
In 1947 he acquired the Diploma in Bacteriology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; after holding several posts in London hospitals he did his National Service in the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1949 to 1951, being stationed in Egypt where he interested himself in typhoid and other enteric organisms.
After his army service he became more and more deeply involved in the new developments involving vaccines against poliomyelitis, and in 1955 he was appointed to a committee, set up by the Medical Research Council, to introduce the advances made in the United States into Britain. He joined the Wellcome Research Laboratories where he made major contributions to the development of Salk-type and Sabin vaccines, and to adaptation of the measles virus.He was involved with many clinical trials of new and improved vaccines; when advocating the use of a new vaccine he would first vaccinate himself and his
family to demonstrate his belief in its safety,
In 1965 a Department of Experimental Cytology, for fundamental research, was set up at Wellcome to utilize his special talents for original research. He planned and equipped the laboratories and chose the staff, but within eight months of the start of work at the new Department, Alan Goffe died tragically in a boating accident off the Isle of Wight.