Friday, October 12, 2012

CIRM president Alan Trounson remembers cloning pioneer Keith Campbell

Keith Campbell
This week Keith Campbell, one of the scientists responsible for cloning Dolly the sheep, died at the age of 58. The New York Times ran an extensive obituary about his contribution to science.

CIRM President Alan Trouson was a friend and scientific colleague of Campbell's. He wrote the following in celebration of his friend's life.

I first met Keith in his early days at the Roslyn Institute, Edinburgh. He was such an energetic and charismatic person immediately became a friend and colleague. He had such a profound belief in what he was doing and a simply effervescent way of drawing you into his immediate circle of friends. We talked of how to reprogram nuclei as a result of his work in amphibian and then mammals.

Given the most recent Nobel awards, he was within a whisker of being recognized as a major world figure in the science of cell reprogramming. Perhaps he felt that he didn't get all the recognition he deserved for his work in mammal cell cloning. Those of us who knew him well understood the importance of his contributions.

There were many times at frequent scientific meetings on animal reproduction, embryology and stem cell biology where I would gravitate to his company – he was such good company and genuine fellowship.

I asked him to several meetings over the years and he always came. Often he was the life of the party (meeting), always willing to present interesting data looking at his recent experiments, and neat ways to address difficulties of technology and cell biology. He was a serious intellect and genuinely nice man who you could share your time with in a productive way. I wish I knew many more people like Keith Campbell.

There are always many ways to slide down the pole of political adoration and the community’s laudatory value tree. Keith had more than his three minutes of fame. He had friends who would have walked a mile for him to lessen his burdens. He had a family he spoke about—his girls were the light of his life and he cared very much for his close colleagues.

I shall always remember the busy Keith, intent on getting it right at work. He had passionate views on what would work, why it wouldn't work and on what you were doing wrong. He loved the merriment of time down, and was a beacon for those who wanted a good companion. He will be sadly missed but I can hear his voice raised in debate of a point of order in the discussions of why a cell would behave under conditions of reversion to a basic state.

One day we will all again be able to join him in those debates and hear his laugh at the merriment of his persuasion. Now I am sad he isn’t here to jovially castigate me for being too serious about my own reflections of a man I admired.

Alan Trounson,
CIRM President

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