Memories of John Newby from his friend and academic mentor, Vyvyan Howard

November 10, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It is with sadness that we announce the sudden passing of John Newby, CPES’ enormously capable Medical Information Scientist. CPES funded John’s Masters degree and here Vyvyan Howard recalls their time together at university:

I met John after he had received his degree. It was clear that he was heading for a First Class Honours degree before he was struck down in his prime by systemic sclerosis. John was one of the brightest students that the Department of Anatomy and Human Biology had had. He wanted dearly to continue his academic studies in biological science at a postgraduate level, but it was clear that because of the disabilities resulting from his condition that laboratory research would not be possible. We managed to find money from various charitable sources to initially study for a Masters degree which was subsequently transferred to a full Doctor of Philosophy.

John had to retrain completely and study the field of epidemiology and environmental chemistry. This he did with gusto and it was clear to me that his illness had, mercifully, not affected his exceptional intellect in the slightest. The result was that he developed a new statistical index for determining whether the average age of onset of a cancer within a population was becoming progressively younger or older.

In his thesis he demonstrated that for cancers of the breast, testis and prostate the age of onset was receding, that is people were getting the disease at a younger age, on average. Many epidemiologists have taken an interest in this since we published the paper. It will be part of John’s legacy to see the modelling, that he started, refined into a powerful tool that could be put to use to help modify public health policy in the future.

John Newby was an exceptional man and it has been a privilege to know him and to work with him. Despite having been dealt an awful blow to his health and wellbeing when in the prime of his life, he always remained positive, looking for the next challenge.

We went together to a conference on the Aegean island of Kos a good number of years ago. I was his ‘chariot’ driver as we negotiated busy airports. His wry sense of humour, on that and many other occasions, will remain with me and I will miss him badly.

Vyvyan Howard. Coleraine, 24th October  2011

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