Members in the News - In Memoriam
R. S. Bray, 1923–2008
Photograph by R. Killick-Kendrick; reproduced by permission.
Robert Stow Bray, universally known as Bill, died peacefully in hospital in Cherbourg, France, on May 23, 2008 at age 84.
Bill was born in Australia and gained his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Adelaide. Wartime service in the Royal Australian Air Force, as a navigator in Halifax bombers during World War II, interrupted his university study and culminated in his aircraft being shot down over Germany and his incarceration in a prisoner of war camp. After liberation in 1945 by the advancing British 5th Army led by Field Marshal Montgomery, with whom he was photographed.
Bill at the age of 22, with Field Marshal Montgomery after the latter’s 5th Army had liberated Bill’s prisoner of war camp in Germany in April 1945.
After demobiliaztion, Bill joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Organization (UNRRA) and spent another period in post-war Germany. Bill then returned to Australia and joined the scientific staff of Imperial Chemical Industries’ alkali plant. In 1949 he emigrated to England and entered the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSH&TM), becoming junior lecturer in the Department of Parasitology (then led by Professor H. E. Shortt) and gaining his PhD degree in 1954 under the supervision of Professor P. C. C. Garnham. Bill’s PhD thesis, with additions, was published by H. K. Lewis (London) as LSH&TM Memoir no. 12 in 1957 (Studies on the exo-erythrocytic cycle in the genus Plasmodium), a rare distinction for a young worker since previous authors of Memoirs included such distinguished and senior figures as P. A. Buxton and Sir Philip Manson-Bahr.
About one year after gaining his PhD, Bill joined the Liberian Institute of the American Foundation for Tropical Medicine in Harbel, Liberia, of which he subsequently became assistant director, followed by a further eight years at the LSH&TM, which included research visits to the Far East and Baghdad in Iraq, where Bill added leishmaniasis to his scientific repertoire.
He continued to work on Leishmania, as well as his first love, Plasmodium and any parasites of birds and other wild animals which he happened to find (a lifelong interest). After being appointed director of the newly formed Wellcome Parasitology Unit no. 2 at Haile Selassie I University in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, and a period as research director and then director of the UK Medical Research Council’s (MRC’s) Laboratories in The Gambia, West Africa (1973–1978).
Finally, Bill again returned to England and worked at Imperial College (London, U.K.) as an MRC External Staff member. During this period he became a member of the team, led by W. Krotoski and containing in addition to Bill such eminent scientists as W. E. Collins, P. C. C. Garnham, R. Killick-Kendrick and R. E. Sinden, which found the elusive hypnozoite of P. vivax, thus solving the mystery of delayed relapse in that species.
Bill was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science of London University in 1961. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (RSTM&H) in 1953 and served as local secretary for The Gambia in 1969–1973 and 1977–1978, as a member of Council in 1978–1981 and 1982–1983, and as vice president in 1983–1985. He was a Fellow of the Institute of Biology and an Honorary Member of both the Society of Protozoologists (now known as the International Society of Protistologists) and the British Society for Parasitology. Bill was also made a Knight Great Band of the Most Humane Order of the African Redemption by President Tubman of Liberia for his services to tropical medicine.
After his retirement, Bill moved to a country house on the Cotentin peninsula of Normandy, France, accompanied by his beloved second wife Betty, who sadly predeceased him by several years. While there, he acquired two mute swans, one of whom survives him as do his son Michael, his daughter-in-law Brigitte and his granddaughter Geraldine, all of whom live in Basel, Switzerland.
Bill will be remembered by his many friends, not only as a distinguished scientist but also as a true renaissance man (one of the probably few parasitologists to have read Marcel Proust’s "À la Recherche du Temps Perdu" – though presumably not in French!), a generous, thoughtful and kindly host who lavishly entertained many friends, and a bon vivant and gourmet who could have written a definitive guide to the restaurants of the Cotentin region, in which he shared many memorable meals with his friends.
Apart from writing numerous scientific papers and the memoir referred to above, Bill co-edited with K. P. Chang the textbook "Leishmaniasis" (1985: Amsterdam, Elsevier) and, during his retirement, wrote a book on the history of epidemic diseases, "Armies of Pestilence" (1969: The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, U.K.).
Bill with his granddaughter Geraldine in France, October 2003.
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