Michael J. Berridge († 2020)
By Stephen E Moss
Mike Berridge is an Emeritus Babraham Fellow at the Babraham Institute near Cambridge. In 1960 Mike obtained his BSc from University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, with first class honours, and then his PhD in 1965 from the University of Cambridge. Following his PhD Mike began to develop his interest in second messengers and cell signalling, in work that culminated in 1983 with the publication in Nature for which he is best known, and that described for the first time the role of IP3 as a calcium-mobilising agonist. This work led naturally to a lifelong interest in calcium, and its many roles in normal and diseased cells and tissues.
The importance of Mike’s work on second messengers has been recognised by a number of prestigious international prizes, including the King Faisal International Prize in Science, The Louis Jeantet Prize in Medicine, the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award and many others. In 1984 Mike was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1999 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has also been knighted by the Queen for ‘service to science’.
For many years Mike has been a regular presence at ECS meetings, where his skills as a communicator and his passion for science provide a source of inspiration for the younger generation of calcium biologists. In recognition of his contribution to the ECS, the Keynote Lecture at ECS2008 and meetings thereafter is to be known as the Michael Berridge Lecture.
By Claus W. Heizmann
Rosario Donato is a Professor of Anatomy at the University of Perugia Medical School, Perugia, Italy. He studied medicine and surgery at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Rome, received his MD in 1973 and a degree as Specialist in Neurology in 1977. From 1973 to 1983 he was an Assistant Professor of Anatomy at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome and then moved to Perugia, first as an Associate Professor and then as a Professor of Anatomy. He served as Chairman and Director of the Department of Experimental Medicine and Biochemical Sciences at the University of Perugia from 1997 to 2011.
Rosario’s scientific interests and achievements are focused on the intra-and extracellular functions of the S100 proteins (mainly S100B) in the nervous system and their interactions with receptors (e.g. RAGE). He investigated the regulatory effects of S100B on the dynamics of microtubules and type III intermediate filaments and on the proliferation and differentiation of astrocytes. Furthermore, he studied the roles of extracellular S100B on neuronal survival and differentiation, the inflammatory properties of S100B on microglia via RAGE ligation and the effect of S100B on the proliferation and differentiation of myoblasts via ligation of S100B to RAGE or the bFGF/FGFR1 complex. Rosario Donato is also Guest Editor of a Special Issue on the `S100B Protein in the Nervous system` published in Cardiovascular Psychiatry and Neurology (2010), summarizing the multifunctional properties of S100B in normal and pathological conditions.
In 1978 Rosario was awarded the `Frederico Nitti` Prize by the Italian National Academy of Sciences. He was one of the founders of the European Calcium Society in 1997 together with Jacques Haiech, Claus W. Heizmann and Roland Pochet. Rosario served as ECS Vice-President from 1997-2000 and as ECS President from 2000-2004.
He was the organizer of the 4th Symposium of the European Calcium Society held in Perugia, May 2-5,1996.
By Marc Moreau
I have a fundamental question: when does Jacques sleep? Jacques is like a calcium ion, he has a versatile activity. His scientific activity as well as his administrative activity is so eclectic that is difficult to have a complete view of his career.
Jacques Haiech started with a sound education in mathematics and then in 1977 he moved to training in biochemistry to study the biochemical properties of parvalbumins. In 1979 he was recruited in CNRS in the Centre de Recherche en Biologie Moléculaire (CRBM) in Montpellier (France). Between 1979 and 1981, he has done a fruitful stay at NIH, in Bethesda, Maryland USA in the team directed by Claude Klee to work on calmodulin and calcineurin. He defended his PhD in 1981 and then got interested by the development of artificial intelligence in biology and health.
In 1988 he moved to Marseille to manage a team devoted to protein engineering, then a sequencing center for DNA and a department on transduction proteins. After 12 years Jacques choose to left CNRS and to become Professor. In 1997, he moved to the University of Strasbourg (France), it was the opportunity for him to manage the department of Biomolecules and therapeutic innovations.
Since 1981 he was invited several times as visiting or associated professor in different universities in USA.
His scientific interests and achievements are mainly focused on the biophysical properties of calcium binding proteins and more recently on new paradigms in drug design for cancer research using the concepts of synthetic biology. His interests also reside in the transmission of knowledge and whether it is in Montpellier, Marseille or Strasbourg, Jacques has created new and original training courses.
Besides all these activities, Jacques has important responsibilities at national level. He occupied different positions of councilor in the French Ministry of Research. In particular he was the director of the Genomic program and director of the National Network of Genopoles. Genopoles are structures composed of clusters of laboratories dedicated to biotherapy, genetic and genomic research and the development of industries of biotechnology.
Among this impressive list of responsibilities, Jacques also belongs to the administrative or scientific committees of pharmaceutical industry.
Together with Rosario Donato, Claus W. Heizmann and Roland Pochet, Jacques was one of the founders of the Calcium Society in 1997 and until 2010 he occupied the function of treasurer of the ECS. He was the organizer of the 9th Symposium of the ECS held in Strasbourg, 19-22 July 2006.
Which characterize Jacques is his anticipating view in research. He has always several years in advance to develop new concepts. He is a real precursor, it is why we are proud to have Jacques has honorary member.
By Roland Pochet
Professor Claus Heizmann is emeritus from University of Zürich. He studied chemistry at University of Basel and received his PhD from University of Konstanz. He spent an exciting two years as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of nobel laureate Ed Fischer at the University of Washington in Seattle. He then moved for several years to the Institute of Cell Biology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology before becoming Head of the Division of Clinical Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Department of Pediatrics, University of Zürich.
Claus scientific achievements are focused on both parvalbumin and S100s proteins in which he succeed with an European consortium to discover the genes clustering of this 21 members family
Professor Heizmann, in addition to being a highly successful and productive scientist, is one of main driving forces behind ECS. Claus was one of the founder and the first President of the new structure ECS (Association Internationale Sans But Lucratif) created in 1979. He served as ECS president from 1997 to 2000 and is guest editor for the BBA special issues of ECS meetings. Although having many academic and clinical responsibilities and, of course, a highly active research laboratory to supervise, Claus Heizmann always devoted time (and still is) to ECS matters. It has always been a main concern of Claus’ to attract as many young researchers as possibly and to have exciting and lively poster sessions.
Claude KLEE († 2017)
By Jacques HAIECH
A Free French Scientist
I met Claude Klee for the first time in 1978. She came to Montpellier when I was finishing my PhD and trying to purify Calmodulin from Brain. At this time, brain was considered as the organ with the higher titer of Calmodulin. But brain is a fatty tissue and we were obtaining miserable amount of the protein. Claude was already a star in the Calmodulin field and she suggested to us to use testis instead of brain. And the next morning, we went to the slaughterhouse to get several kg of ram testis. It was a success. Suddenly, we were getting grams of Calmodulin. Sometimes in Science, it is better to use testis than brain to be successful…
Claude obtain a MD in the 50s at the faculty of Medicine, La Timone, in Marseille (France) and then went to US in 1960 to specialize in neurosciences but instead, she spent 1 year to study tRNA. Doing melting curves, she starts to discover the wonderful world of biophysics.
She came back to Europe for one year in the laboratory of Pr M. Staehelin in Basel where she met her husband, Werner Klee, and be acquainted with the purification of proteins. Then, she came back to US in the laboratory of Lou Sokoloff (NIH)in 1962 where she was starting to study protein-protein interaction during four years.
Then, she joined the laboratory of Maxine Singer in the Institute for Arthritis where she studied the polynucleotide phosphorylase during two years. She quitted the team of Maxine to study a new enzyme (Histine ammonialyase) in the laboratory of Herb Tabor during four years.
We are in the first half of the 70s and Richard Nixon launched a national cancer program in order to eradicate this disease in the next 10 years. The National Cancer Institute is created and Maxine Singer with Bob Golberger moved to this new NIH institute. Maxine asked Claude to join her and she accepted only if free to work on her own subject. She wanted to study protein-protein interaction and the new emerging couple (Calmodulin-phosphodiesterase) seduced her. Nobody at this time realized the importance of this two proteins in the cross-talk between the calcium signal and the cAMP signaling pathway.
She took times to polish the techniques and the protocol that were needed to purify Calmodulin in order to build a Calmodulin affinity column allowing the purification of Phosphodiesterase. Using brain extract, Claude realized rapidly that Calmodulin was interacting with much more proteins that only Phosphodiesterase. Then, she played with different parameters in order to specifically bind and to elute Phosphodiesterase. Unfortunately, PDE was always a minor band whereas the main contaminant of the preparation was composed of two proteins in equal amount of 59 and 15 Kdaltons. The two proteins were the two subunits of a unique protein. The small subunit was identified as a member of the calcium binding family with EF-hand motifs. As the protein was present in brain and was a calcium binding protein, the whole protein was named Calcineurin.
Calcineurin was in search of a function for almost three years and it was in the laboratory of Phil Cohen that Claude found that Calcineurin is a Calmodulin-Phosphatase in 1981.
For almost ten years Claude was able to decipher the role and the structure of Calcineurin without being annoyed by any competitors. Shortly later, Calcineurin was identified as the target of the immunosuppressor drug, FKB506 and therefore, of the previous immunossupressor drug, cyclosporine I. Then, Calcineurin became a protein star and nothing was the same in the field of immunology.
I was a post-doc in the laboratory of Claude at the real start of the Calcineurin story. I felt that it was fool to work on a contaminant. As a mathematician, I was right from a logical point of view but I was wrong from a biological point of view.
Although Calcineurin is not everywhere (and at least not yet in the nucleus), the protein is a crucial node in several important regulatory pathways and Claude will stay always the one who discovers this biological central hub, regulating the cell balance between life and death.
Claude has always be supportive of the European Calcium Binding meetings and of the principles of the European calcium Society that guide our actions :
- Disseminating scientific information’s to young scientists in an affordable meeting,
- Considering scientific information’s as a public treasure and not as a mean to promote individualities,
- Promoting Excellence and Pleasure in Science as a mean to increase solidarity and exemplarity among generations of scientists,
- Bashing scientific misconducts as Science is also an art and not only an element of an economical open market.
Although pessimistic about the destiny of our World, she insides believes in the youth and most of the post-doc that she trains have profoundly matured after experiencing a Claude KLEE’s Training program.
Our European Calcium Society is proud to have Claude Klee as an honorarium member.
By Claus W.Heizmann
Joachim Krebs has been working in the field of calcium signaling for more than 30 years. He received his PhD from the University of Tübingen, Germany. In his thesis he used 31P-NMR to obtain structural information on oligonucleotides of different length and properties.
Afterwards, he spent 2 years as a postdoctoral fellow in the Lab of Prof. R.J.P.Williams at the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Oxford, UK using 31P-NMR to investigate the interaction of ions with liposomes of different composition.
In 1977 he accepted a position at the Institute of Biochemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. In his Lab he focused his research on the structure-function relationship of calcium binding- and transporting proteins using NMR and other biophysical techniques. Later, he investigated the influence of thyroid hormones on different calcium signaling pathways during fetal brain development.
Joachim supported the ECS Society and its Meetings from the very beginning and was organizer and chairman of scientific sessions. He also presented his results at various international conferences. Joachim was involved in different organisational aspects of the Society but mainly in the edition of the Special Issues of BBA Molecular Cell Research (together with Claus Heizmann and Jacques Haiech) covering the presented results of those meetings.
He has authored, coauthored, and edited many articles in peer-reviewed journals and books in the field of calcium biochemistry and calcium signaling. After his retirement from the ETH, he continued his research at the Department of NMR based Structural Biology of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany.
In 2007 he edited the book “Calcium: A Matter of Life or Death”, published by Elsevier together with Marek Michalak from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. Recently, he edited a book on "Membrane Dynamics and Calcium Signaling", published by Springer in 2018.
He is also on the Editorial Board of BBA Molecular Cell Research and a Section Editor of Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics.
By Jan B. Parys
By giving an honorary ECS membership to Dr. Katsuhiko Mikoshiba, the ECS wants to honor a top-neuroscientist who had a profound influence in the Ca2+ field. Dr. K. Mikoshiba is indeed best known for his work on the inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor, a Ca2+-release channel ubiquitously expressed but at especially high concentrations so in the brain. Dr. Mikoshiba and his team were involved in the study of the IP3R since the beginning and published many seminal papers on the subject, including on the cloning of the IP3Rs, the IP3R knock-out mice, the structure of the IP3-binding domain, the neuronal (and other) functions of the IP3R, the production of an IP3 “sponge”, the role of the suppressor domain and the coupling to the channel region, the regulation of the IP3R by various regulatory proteins including IRBIT and much more.
Dr. Mikoshiba got in 1969 his M.D. degree and in 1973 his Ph.D. degree from Keio University. After a short period as instructor, he left Japan for a postdoctoral stay with Jean-Pierre Changeux at the Pasteur Institute (Paris, France), where he published already a first paper on the cerebellar P400 protein which would become a few years later famous as the IP3R. Coming back to Japan, he first returned to Keio University, where he successively held the rank of assistant and associate professor at the Dept. of Physiology. In 1985 he became professor at Osaka University and held this position simultaneously to that of professor at the National Institute for Basic Biology. In 1992 he became chief scientist at the RIKEN and professor at the Dept. of Molecular Neurobiology (Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo). From 2008-2011 he was also foreign professor at Seoul National University (Korea).
For his work, Dr. Mikoshiba was bestowed with many awards including between several others the Erwin von Bälz Preis (1974), the Kitazato prize (1980), the 9th Osaka Prize for Science (1991), the Medical Award of the Japan Medical Association (1996), the Fritz-Lipmann Lecture Award (1999), the Collège de France Medal (1999), the Medal of Honor in Japan (2002), the Klaus Joachim Zülch-Preis (2003), the Meister Prize (2004), the Nobel Forum Lecture (2004), the Hagiwara Lecture (2004), the Sherrington Lecture (2008), the Naito Foundation Research Prize (2009), the Japan Academy Prize (2009) and an honorary doctorate of the Karolinska Institute (2011).
Presently, Dr. Mikoshiba is member of the Science Council of Japan, professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, team leader of the Laboratory for Developmental Neurobiology at the Brain Science Institute (RIKEN) and adjunct professor at Jikei University, Keio University and the Karolinska Institute (Sweden) as well as editorial Board member of many journals and chair or member of many committees and advisory boards.
Dr. Mikoshiba is not only a great and always kind scientist but he was also always supportive of the ECS and attended several of our meetings. The ECS is therefore proud to count Dr. Mikoshiba in its ranks and to confer him an honorary membership.
By Claus W. Heizmann and Volker Gerke
Erwin Neher is Professor Emeritus at the Max-Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen (Germany). He took up his studies in physics in 1963 at the ‘Technische Hochschule‘ in Munich. In 1966 he obtained a Fulbright Scholarship to continue his studies (biophysics) at the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he graduated as Master of Science (physics). After his return to Munich, he started his project on voltage-clamping snail neurons at the Max-Planck Institute for Psychiatry in the lab of Prof. H.D.Lux and obtained his PhD in 1970. In 1972, Erwin Neher went to the Max Planck Institut biophysical chemistry in Göttingen where `Young Investigator Laboratories‘ were established for him and Bert Sakmann to collaborate on the measurement of single channel currents. From 1983 to 2011 Erwin Neher was the Director of the Membrane Biophysics Department at that Institute. He was also a Professor at the University of Göttingen and co-chair of the European Neuroscience Institute in Göttingen.
Erwin Neher together with Bert Sakmann succeeded to conclusively prove the existence of ion channels and developed an ingenious technique to measure miniscule currents flowing through a single ion channel molecule. This patch-clamp technique, a project Erwin Neher completed as a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Charles F. Stevens at Yale, allowed to exactly measure the opening and closing of a single ion channel in the membrane and to explain the selectivity of a channel for one or the other type of ion. Many laboratories throughout the world are using this method to investigate the many different types and biological roles of ion channels (e.g. secretion of insulin in the pancreas, release of neurotransmitters in the brain, regulating the contraction of the heart) and their association with human diseases such as anxiety, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. Soon after the development of the patch-clamp technique Erwin Neher turned to the study of Ca2+ currents and Ca2+ signals. His main interest in recent years has been the role of calcium in the control of exocytosis.
The importance of the work of Erwin Neher has been recognized by a great number of awards and honorary degrees among them:
Honorary degrees: Honorary Professor, University of Göttingen (1986); Dr h.c.: University of Alicante, Spain (1993); University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA (1993); Technical University of Munich, Germany (1994); University of Madrid, Spain (1994); Huazhong University of Sciences and Technology, Wuhan, China (1994);University of Bahia Blanca, Argentina (1995); University of Rome, Italy (1996); Hebrew University of Jerusalem Israel (1999).
Awards: Nernst-Haber-Bodenstein, Award of the German Society for Physical Chemistry (1977); K.C.Cole Award, Biophysical Society (1982); Harold Lamport Award,New York, Academy of Sciences (1982); Spencer Award ,Columbia University (1983); Louisa Gross-Horwitz Award, Columbia University (1986); Schunck-Preis, University of Giessen (1986); Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Award, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (1986); Gairdner Award, Toronto (1989); Bristol-Meyers Squibb Research Award, New York(1990); Gerard Prize, American Neuroscience Association (1991).
Along with Bert Sakmann, Erwin Neher was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1991 for `their discovery concerning the function of single ion channels in cells`.
Erwin Neher has been a supporting member of the ECS since 1999 and was invited to give a plenary lecture entitled `Ca2+-triggered release of neurotransmitters and hormones` at the 7th ECS Conference in Bruxelles in 2002.
Jan B Parys
By Geert Bultynck
After obtaining a Master in Plant Physiology (1980) and in Medical Sciences (1982), Professor Jan Parys obtained his PhD in 1986 from KU Leuven, Belgium. During his postdoctoral training, he was first Lecturer in Algiers, Algeria (1986-1989) and subsequently a Research Associate of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the College of Medicine from the University of Iowa, USA (1990-1992). In 1994, he was awarded the Schamelhout - Koettlitz Award from the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium. In 1996 he became independent investigator of the National Foundation for Scientific Research (NFWO) and in 1997, he started as faculty member at the Faculty of Medicine of the KU Leuven, becoming full professor in 2006. During his longstanding career in the Laboratory of Physiology and later in the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Signaling, his research centered around the intracellular Ca2+-release channels with focus on the structure-function properties of the various IP3 receptor isoforms, regulation of IP3 receptors by phosphorylation, IP3 receptor modulation by accessory proteins and the role of IP3 receptors in cell fate decisions including autophagy, the unfolded protein response and apoptosis. Furthermore, the role of Ca2+ signals at the ER and the interplay with other organelles, including the mitochondria and lysosomes, received his keen interest. To date, he has published more than 250 peer-reviewed articles in leading journals in the field, which have attracted nearly 20.000 citations. He was an Editorial Board member of Biology of the Cell (2003-2012), Frontiers in Oncology (2015-2021) and International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2019-2020). He has also edited (together with others) the book “Calcium Techniques: A Laboratory Manual” for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Pressas well as special issues on Ca2+ signaling in cell death and/or health & diseases for various journals, including Cell Calcium and BBA-Molecular Cell Research.
Moreover, Jan Parys has been a very active and highly renowned member of the Ca2+ research community in general and the European Calcium Society in specific. He became an ECS Board member in 2008 and served the ECS as Secretary-General for about a decade (2010-2020). His dedication towards ECS and support to ECS activities have been highly appreciated by the community. Jan was also very active in organizing or co-organizing ECS events as main organizer, as chair of the scientific committee or as member of the organizing/scientific committee, including the main ECS meeting in 2008 (Leuven, Belgium), the ECS workshop on “Ca2+ signaling in cell death” in 2013 (Leuven, Belgium), the main ECS meeting in 2014 (Aix-en-Provence, France), the main ECS meeting in 2016 (Valladolid, Spain) and the main ECS meeting in 2018 (Hamburg, Germany). He participated in numerous workshops and chaired several sessions at ECS events. Under his helm, the ECS has further flourished and grown to become an international recognized society uniting at times up to 300 Ca2+ researchers from around the globe. Jan has also been a driving force for the establishment of a junior ECS Board (jECS) to further develop the Society with attention for early career researchers. Today, jECS is a very active entity run by and for early career researchers that has already organized several well-attended events.
By Jacques Haiech
My friend Roland
Roland is Alsatian at heart but studied in Belgium. After his bachelor dissertation, where he was introduced to new techniques in the epic phase of solid phase synthesis, he realized his thesis in the laboratory of J.E. Dumont to decipher the functioning of the thyroid. After his thesis, he obtained an EMBO scholarship to work at the Hadassah School of Medicine of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
He took the boat to cross the Mediterranean with woman, car and cat. This crossing, reminiscent of the path in the opposite direction of nowadays migrants, was stopped in Cyprus. The Yom Kippur war (1974) had just ended, but the shipowners, coldly, did not want to take any risk: no more boats between Cyprus and Israel. He had to catch a plane and arrived without baggage and without car in Jerusalem. He worked on β-receptors and published his first article in Nature.
On his return to Belgium, he quickly obtained a position in histology at the Free University of Brussels (ULB). He developed immunohistochemistry techniques initially to study the signaling pathways in the thyroid then very quickly in the brain. He focused on the protein-dependent vitamin D, a calcium-binding protein now known as calbindin and thread in needle, his scientific activity was anchored on calcium signaling in normal and pathological tissues.
His interpersonal skills and his search for the necessary antibodies allowed him to build a network of collaborations, mainly in Europe. In 1981, we failed to collaborate to quantify calmodulin in cells and tissues that Roland was studying. Unfortunately, the carriers were not as reliable at the time as they are today. The sixty samples he sent me arrived unfrozen.
It was a postponement and our paths crossed again during a conference on GPCRs at Mont St-Odile in 1987. This symposium, initiated by Dumont in the 1970s, was held in a monastery run by nuns. At this meeting, we rebuilt the world of calcium. We concluded after several bottles of Riesling, Sylvaner and other Alsatian bottles of wine, that a symposium bringing together the young European researchers working on the calcium in normal and pathological tissues was missing.
Ideas that are coming from brain confused by alcohol, we all know they end up in the trash of history. But with Roland, that nay. He mobilized his network of scientists and taking advantage of its proximity to the European authorities, the first European congress on calcium-binding proteins could be held in Brussels in 1989 with Claus Heizmann and Sture Forsen in the scientific committee. This congress formalized the creation of a group of musketeers who took charge of the biennial organization of this European congress. Roland naturally took the lead of this group which counted Claus Heizmann, Rosario Donato and myself.
Ten years later, Roland created the European Society of Calcium (ECS). He was quite naturally the secretary-general. He asked me to become the treasurer of the association, but I must confess that he fulfilled both the role of secretary general and treasurer. I must admit that it was very nice to be the puppet-treasurer of Roland.
Thirty years later, Roland prepared his succession and showed that he was not essential to the life of the company, its meeting and its workshops. It's rare enough to emphasize it. He remains the tutelary figure of the Society. The 4 musketeers became honorary members of the ECS.
Roland took advantage of his free time and energy to put in place the tools to increase cohesion between European countries and tolerance as a counterpoise to excellence and administrative hyperbureaucracy. In the European COST program, which is trying to bring European research teams together through a scientific program that is often very interdisciplinary, Roland played a decisive role. His knowledge of the arcana of the European system, the wide scope of his networks and his negotiating skills made Roland a master of the game in the lobbying work that is now necessary to defend a free and benevolent research in the field of neuroscience (within especially the European Brain Council). Roland is also a staunch defender of Alsace. Roland thus illustrates the reality of the aphorism "Think global and act local".
Roland has been honored on many occasions.
My dear Roland, remain as you are and continue to work for a caring and welcoming Europe flagship of humanistic values.
R.J.P. Williams (1926-2015)
By Joachim Krebs
Professor R.J.P. Williams, FRS, is Emeritus Fellow at Wadham College and Emeritus Professor, University of Oxford. He studied Chemistry at Merton College, Oxford, graduating in 1948. During the course of his Part II work the Irving-Williams series of the stabilities of complex ions, which is of paramount importance in both non-living and living systems, was discovered. He took his doctor's degree at Oxford in 1950 working with Professor H.M.N.H. Irving. With Professor A. Tiselius (Uppsala, Sweden) 1950-51, he developed certain (gradient elution) chromatographic methods of analysis. He then became lecturer and tutor in Chemistry at Wadham College, 1955-65.
After a year at Harvard University, 1965-66, with Professor B.L. Vallee, he changed to teach biochemistry until 1974, and was Napier Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Oxford from 1975-1991. In 1961 he proposed proton-gradient-driven ATP formation as the driving force of bio-energetics. He pioneered the field of Bio-Inorganic Chemistry, especially concerning the role of calcium as a biological messenger, and contributed substantially to our understanding of the evolution of life. Together with J.J.R. Frausto da Silva he just published a book on the Chemistry of Evolution. He was elected Fellow of The Royal Society in 1972 and is a Foreign Member of the Swedish, Portugese, Czechoslovakian and Belgian science academies. He received various medals of the Biochemical Society, the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the European Biochemical Societies and of the International Union of Biochemistry. He has honorary degrees from Louvain, Leicester, Keel, Lisbon and East Anglia Universities. Bob Williams was a founder member of the Oxford Enzyme group in which he and his colleagues devised many new methods for the study of in vitro and in vivo biological systems, especially using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.