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Dr. P.C. Fitz-James

Dr. C.F. Robinow

Dr. J. Robinson

Marion Murray

 

Philip Chester Fitz-James, BSA(UBC), MSA(Toronto), M.D., PhD(UWO)

Philip Fitz-James, a distinguished Canadian microbiologist and biochemist, was born in Vancouver (BC) 25th November 1920 and died in London (ON) 11 October 2006. As a research scientist he spent his entire career with appointments in the Departments of Microbiology & Immunology and of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario from 1953 rising to Professor in l967 and the University nomination as Professor Emeritus in 1987. From 1956 to his retirement he was a "Career Investigator" first supported by funding from the National Research Council and later the Medical Research Council as a full-time Research Associate. He was a pioneer in aspects of the structure and cell biology of bacteria, published 70 papers, and involved 8 PhD graduate students in exciting and significant research. He contributed in another way to the University and the city by introducing them both to the sport of rowing and was the founder of both the University and the London Rowing Clubs. He encouraged and directed inter-collegiate rowing events in both Canada and the USA and was an advisor and Head Coach at the UWO for more than 30 years. All in all he had a substantial and influential career. His scientific strength was recognized by his being a Medical Research Fellow (NRC) 1950-56, a Medical Research Associate (NRC-MRC) 1956-1985) recipient of the Harrison Prize of The Royal Society of Canada in 1963 and of the Canadian Society of Microbiologists Award 1977. The Rowing Clubs were equally appreciative and he was named the Canadian Coach of the Year in 1980 by the Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen.

As the son of an Anglo-Scottish wood-products engineer and an Irish mother, Harold and Gladys Fitz-James, with a big garden he was introduced early to biology on the west coast and agricultural science was his first specialization at both UBC and the University of Toronto; this included bacteriology under Blyth Eagles and the problems of a penicillin pilot plant under Fergus MacDonald. Medical research was attractive and he decided to enter medical studies at the University of Western Ontario where he graduated with an MD in 1948. His interest and experience in microbiology was noted by Professors Murray and Robinow of the then Department of Bacteriology and Immunology and they sought his interest in initiating studies of bacterial endospores as a graduate student for a attributes. This made for an attractive research problem. He was agreeable and the NRC offered him a scholarship but it was two years of internship and medical practice before he started in 1950 and never looked back. From that beginning he pursued entirely original and novel studies combining light and electron microscopic structural observations with biochemical analyses of identifiable fractions of bacterial cells and their spores; a level of interdisciplinary research novel then but universal now. The biochemical features of his work brought Professor Roger Rossiter into the advisory group. He gained the PhD in 1953. The several years of basic studies led to the later identification with his student Elizabeth Young of the stages of spore formation that involve a specialized version of cell division with the addition of differentiation of one derivative as a spore with a specialized coat on the cell membrane and a cortex. It was the beginning for the work of an army of people who thereafter used spores and spore formation as a basis for study of differentiation There were many aspects of spore formation that be worked out using mutants and inhibitors of individual processes with detailed analysis after careful fractionation.. lt was pioneer work and its amplification was a major part of his labours. There were interesting and productive collaborations over the years. In 1953 C. L. Hannay sought Fitz-James" involvement in studying the parasporal protein crystals he had just discovered associated with sporulation of Bacillus thuringiensis and about to be known as the toxin now used as a biocide in the control of insect larvae. This led to biochemical and structural studies of the genesis of these crystals. Over years he collaborated with Arthur Aronson (Purdue University) first on structural studies ofprotoplasting of bacterial cells and the isolation of bacterial nuclei. Later they were engaged in a wide ranging study of spore-coat proteins and the formation of the multi-layered spore coat. Derivative work led to some understanding of the roles of spore coats in germination and in crystal synthesis along with isolating a wide range of mutants to assist analysis. It was a short step towards including plasmids in the genetic control of processes and the experimental modification of sporulation events. He made interesting observations of membrane associated linear polymers ofteichoic acid that formed part of the wall structure of many gram-positive bacteria; they formed what he called "monorails" but the final set of associations escaped him, which one can regret. He was always prepared to do the needful to get materials, instruments and experimental animals he needed. At various times he bred silkworms or mosquitoes, feeding the latter by presenting his own arm. He did his own electron microscopy (the Department installed an electron microscope in 1954) and light photomicrography. When he needed specialized equipment he went to it or managed to obtain it, as he did for a Model E analytical ultra-centrifuge. He had strong help over 25 years from his assistant Doryth Loewy, who was also his wife, and she kept his laboratory in as much order as he would let it be.

Aside from science he brought enthusiasm for rowing to London as well as his own sculling single. He worked hard over years to start and develop a rowing club in the University sports program and succeeded to the extent that inter-collegiate races became a regular event. Somehow he persuaded students to enjoy early morning practice and the energy requirement of the sport; the outcome was some excellent oarsmen and women. The University interest sparked the formation of a London Rowing Club which has benefited the sport. He has trained more than graduate students and his efforts were fully appreciated at his retirement from coaching. He was a research man of substance. The MRC Associate appointment was for that purpose and he was well supported. This suited him because he did not like lecturing and the restrictions of formal teaching. He had strong opinions when they were sought and often engaged in sharp humourous comments. He was a truly independent soul with some curious sides to him such as not belong to any scientific societies. He left a strong mark in his fields of study) which we can all appreciate.

 

Carl Franz Robinow, M.D., D.Sc.(hc), F.R.S.C. (1909-2006)

Carl Franz Robinow enjoyed a long and productive life as a Professor of Microbiology, as a researcher of note in  bacterial and fungal cytology, and as a stimulating and humorous companion to a wide range of  colleagues, friends and students  He was born in Hamburg, Germany on the 10th April 1909 and died the  20th October 2006 in London, Ontario, Canada. He was the oldest child ( 8 min. ahead of his identical twin Richard) in the family of  Franz and Marianne Robinow, initiating the fifth generation of a prominent business and professional family who were long-time residents of Hamburg until 1934-35 when they spread far and wide about the world. Schooling in Germany was followed by medical studies in clinical centres in Freiburg and Vienna finally attaining his M.D. in Hamburg in 1934. He came to Canada and an appointment in the then Department of Bacteriology and Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Western Ontario in 1949 following formative and notable research experience in Denmark, England and the U.S.A. from1934 to 1949. The Department he joined was small and busy with an active clinical laboratory, a teaching program for medical students, and a growing research program with graduate students at work. He did more than his share in all aspects of academic life in a lively post-war medical school. He was awarded the Harrison Prize in 1957 and then elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1960; he was President of the Canadian Society of Microbiologists in 1962 and of the Canadian Society for Cell Biology in 1968; he was declared a Professor Emeritus in 1978, and was awarded an honorary D.Sc. by his University in 1983. He was truly appreciated as a Professor and as an authority in his fields.

He became interested in the structure of cells and tissues as a student and after graduation he assisted  one of his teachers, E.G. Nauck, with  the photomicrography of tissue cultures, thus joining an early phase of an important aspect of biology with his first paper. It was this interest that took him in 1935 to the laboratory of Albert Fischer (Institute for Cell Culture) in Copenhagen.  While there he added other studies including the cell boundaries of sponges which illustrates his lifelong curiosity in biology. A further need to explore tissue culture and cytology took him  in 1937 to England and the resourceful laboratory of Dr.  Honor B. Fell       ( The Strangeways Laboratory, Cambridge). A chance meeting with J. O. Bland set him into collaborative study of virus infections in epithelial cell cultures and a classic study of the multiplication of vaccinia virus that they published in 1939.  This work was interrupted by the onset of war and his internment, being still a German citizen, on the Isle of Man for about a year before he was one of a number considered helpful to the war effort. He returned to living in Cambridge and working at the Strangeways Laboratory until 1947.
His work had turned to bacterial cytology in 1940 when he used the modified Giemsa staining technique that G. Piekarski had used to show minute “nucleoids” in bacterial cells and applied his considerable skills in the fixation, staining and photomicrography of cytological preparations.  The result was a stunning demonstration of these DNA-containing structures (Feulgen positive) that appeared to divide directly in concert with cell division and, in the absence of other evidence, well worth considering as nucleoids. Almost nothing was known at that time about the structure of bacterial cells consequently his 1942 and 1944 papers on studies of “the nuclear apparatus” of representative Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria had a considerable response. Rene Dubos wrote a book, The Bacterial Cell, summarizing what was known and he persuaded Carl Robinow to provide a 20-page and fully illustrated Addendum to that 1945 publication. Bacteriologists in universities in the USA sought and arranged a year and a half visiting tour(1948-49) with longer stays in four major institutions(Yale, Indiana, Purdue, and Washington) to lecture and demonstrate his cytological techniques. At that time phase microscopy and electron microscopy were not yet useful. During that influential tour he visited Robert Murray at the University of Western Ontario where work had started on the cytology of bacteriophage infections of bacterial cells which was accomplished using his techniques and advice; the outcome of this visit was his acceptance in 1949 of an Associate Professorship in that Department of Bacteriology and Immunology, where he was to stay for the rest of his career.

In Canada he continued studies of bacterial structure concentrating first with light microscopy on the basic cytology of spores of Bacillus species and explored the peculiar “popping” of nuclear material to the spore surface when exposed to acid oxidizers. He then explored the possibilities of gaining ultra -structural information by electron microscopy with Kieth Porter (Rockefeller Institute). His observations helped stimulate the parallel studies of structure and biochemistry of spores by P. C. Fitz-James. He collaborated with Robert Murray on a demonstration of a diffential staining of the cytoplasmic surface of bacterial cells; at that time the bacterial cytoplasmic membrane by either light or electron microscopy, which camein the 50’s with the development of metal staining of EM sections an area of structural research actively pursued in the Department. His work and that of others, strongly supported by phase microscopy of live growing cells, became convincing that nuclear division in bacteria was direct separation of a single element rather than a mitotic event involving multiple tiny chromosomes; for a while there was a serious polemical argument which was discomforting until the single linkage group in coliform genetics settled things.  He was an indomitable contender in meetings of that time.
In the mid-50’s Carl Robinow turned his attention to study of the structure and mode of division of the moulds Mucor hiemalis  and Phycomyces blakesleanus and led to a comparative light- and electron-microscopical study of the former with his student E. K. McCully. This work produced a series of profusely illustrated papers and illuminated the behaviour of dividing nuclei. In particular, they demonstrated the formation, distribution and movements of the bundle of microtubules forming the axis during division, in fact the spindle and associated structures of mitosis and meiosis. In the 60’s he studied the remarkable fungus Basidiobolus ranarum whose peculiar growth habit fascinated him as well as its extraordinary large number of small chromosomes. It required phase cine-photomicroscopy as well as light and electron microscopic cytology to follow growth and division in what looked like a fungal filament but it became clear that after duplication of the cytoplasmic content half of it migrated into a forming branch tube, each “cell” migrating on into a  new compartment, then on to perform again.  He believed that it behaved more like an amoeba that happened to make a fungus-like cell wall. Aside from influential papers many entertaining and instructive seminars resulted. In the 70’s and 80’s he worked  on a wide range of yeasts having started earlier with the classic Saccharomyces cerevisiae whose nuclear structure had been subject to controversy for decades. He found this was largely because the chromatin therein has no affinity for conventional nuclear stains while the nucleolus is deeply stained. This realization made for useful descriptions which he accompanied with electron microscopic descriptions of the organization of these nuclei.  Authoritative papers on other yeasts ( notably Lipomyces , Leucosporidium and Rhodosporidium spp., and  Schizosacchharomyces pombe) and the range of his work became summarized in major reviews written with Byron Johnson in the book “The Yeasts”(1985) and written in two parts with J. A. Barnett in the journal Yeast (2002) as major overviews of yeast cytology.
His retirement in 1974 made no difference to his productivity in research for he carried on his yeast studies for more than 25 years thereafter. He would never avoid a cytological challenge as happened when he was consulted by E. A. Angert about how to study the structure of a remarkable very large bacterium, Epulopiscium fishelsoni, which reproduces by forming multiple new cells in its cytoplasm. This was remniscent of Metabacterium polyspora  with its multiple endospores, which he had worked on some fifty years before and Dr. Angert also had worked on recently. They published a paper in 1998 when he was 89. It was another venture in comparative cytology. No less remarkable for a retiree was the collaborative paper “The bacterial nucleoid revisited” with E. Kellenberger in 1994 and the major review (noted above) in 2002. Unfortunately his health deteriorated following a fall in 2003 and medical and surgical adventures led to life in a nursing home.                                                                     
His light micrographs were very much his own work and for electron microscopy he appreciated the technical mastery of John Marak; both light and EM prints were widely appreciated for book illustrations. He welcomed visitors with broad interests and who would enjoy discussing  microscopy, effective cytological preparations,  and the best of photomicrography. Aside from all that he enjoyed a good laugh and good conversation.

 

Dr. John Robinson B.S.A (UBC), M.Sc. (McGill), Ph.D. (McGill)

On August 6th, 2001 the C.S.M. lost a valued member and faithful servant. John Robinson was on a swimming outing with family and friends when he succumbed to a persistent heart condition. Born in Vancouver, John obtained his B.S.A. in bacteriology and came under the influence of Blythe Eagles who recommended that John travel east to study chemistry at Macdonald College. Upon arrival John found the position filled and was pointed toward the Microbiology department where Dr. Gray took John under his wing. John obtained his M.Sc. from McGill in 1946 and moved to Ottawa as a research associate in Applied Biology at the National Research Council. He began his work on halophiles with Norman Gibbons and his thesis supervisor Fred Thatcher while maintaining his registration at Macdonald College. This collaboration resulted in his obtaining his Ph.D. from McGill in 1950.
He then moved to the Bacteriology Division Science Service in the Department of Agriculture where he continued his halophile work with Harry Katznelson. In 1956 he moved to the Food and Drug Directorate of the Department of National Health and Welfare. For the next decade he worked on the toxins on Staphylococcus becoming one of Canada's experts in this field.
In 1965 academia called when Prof. Bob Murray recruited him to join the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology in the newly expanded Faculty of Medicine at the University of Western Ontario. Here John began the role of research supervisor of both graduate and undergraduate students and began a series of studies and publications on the parasitic predatory bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus. In 1967 he spent the summer at the Prairie Regional Laboratory of the NRC in Saskatoon with Fred Simpson. As well he spent a sabbatical in 1975-76 at the Food Research Institute, Norwich, U.K. collaborating with Dr. Ella Barnes.
Early in his career John began an association with the C.S.M. which included many years as editor of the CSM Newsletter, Secretary-Treasurer, Vice President, President and Past President. He encouraged younger colleagues to participate in the C.S.M. which we still do to this day. In addition he sat on numerous national, provincial and university committees. In 1977 he was awarded the Canadian Silver Jubilee Medal for his many activities.
But his relationship with students was his favourite topic. In 1965, with his four colleagues, he helped to create a new undergraduate Microbiology and Immunology program at UWO which continues to produce outstanding Honors Science graduates who now populate many graduate, faculty and laboratory positions. He was very proud of his contributions to the undergraduate courses and his speciality in applied microbiology.
Upon retirement in 1987 he was made Professor Emeritus at UWO. He moved to Keswick Ridge where he had prepared a tree farm during his final years at UWO. Here he spent his time nurturing the trees that were to be found in many homes during the Christmas season. His direct experience of nature was one of his great pleasures.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Jessica (nee Coburn) whom he met at MacDonald College, three daughters, Barbara Robinson (Krauss) of Edmonton, Margaret Prime of Fergus, and Frances Robinson (Redmond) of Keswick Ridge, and son Reverend Douglas Robinson of Thorold and seven grandchildren. His many students and colleagues will remember him as a gentleman and a good friend.

 

MURRAY, Marion Isabelle (Luney) - 1919 - 2013 Marion died at home in London, Ontario on March 27, 2013 after a protracted period of home care. She is survived by her husband, Dr. Robert G.E. Murray, but no close family after her sister, Dorothy Luney, died in 1993. They were the sole children of the late Dr. Frederick and Cora (Spettigue) Luney of London, Ontario, and were the fourth generation of Luney's in London. The family had much to do with the life and early building of the south part of London. There are surviving cousins, Dora McNeil (London ON), Marjory Richards (Middleville MI), Dorothy Lord (San Diego CA), Thomas Fairles (Duck Lake MI), Mary Jane Joyce (Belleville ON), Marilynne McNeil (London ON), Janet Bisset (St Lambert QC), and Grant McNeil (Calgary AB). There are more distant relations distributed in Canada, UK, Spain and New Zealand. She was schooled at London South Collegiate and attended the University of Western Ontario in preparation for her working life as a medical technologist starting in St Joseph's Hospital Laboratory (where her father was the pathologist), for a time in St Catharines ON and Lansing MI, and finally for some 23 years in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Western Ontario. She was the chief technologist in the Clinical Bacteriology Service for Victoria Hospital (1956-66) which was in the Department. When the Faculty of Medicine moved to the University campus in 1966, she went with it to provide technical support to laboratory teaching for the students of medicine and science. She retired in 1981 to care for her aged parents. Marion enjoyed life with many good friends, a life-long bridge club, and vacations that included wide travels with her parents, sister, and special friends. In 1985 she married Dr. Robert Murray, a widower and departmental colleague for many years, and they lived on happily in London until age overtook her. In the last part of her life there was more traveling with the addition of her husband's professional international involvements, and consequent widening of the range of friends and acquaintances. In those years she was a quiet and mostly anonymous philanthropist giving generous major support to St Joseph's and Parkwood Hospitals, the University of Western Ontario including her old department, the Stratford Shakespearean Festival, and the London Community Foundation as well as a number of other charities. The family wishes to express their great appreciation of a decade of housekeeping and final years of loving care by Charalito Sorilla ("Chat") as well as the friendship of her family. We also owe special thanks to Mary Wellman and Marilyn Weekley of Medical Priorities for caring supervision and to all the caregivers they provided for a long illness. Throughout her adult life Marion was a lively-minded participant in the lives of family and friends, enjoying nature, reading, the arts and music but without being an adventurer or involved in physical sports. It was a life well lived. A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 2pm at Wesley-Knox United Church, 91 Askin Street, London, with Reverend Tracy Crick-Butler officiating. A private interment in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, London. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St Joseph's Healthcare Foundation, 801 Commissioners Road East, London, ON N6C 5J1 or to the charity of your choice.

 

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