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UBC Reports | Vol. 46 | No. 16 | Oct. 19, 2000

A stellar scientist and friend

University to hold a celebration of Michael Smith's life

Nobel prize-winner and Prof. Emeritus Michael Smith has died of cancer. He was 68 years old.

"We at UBC feel a real sense of personal loss," says Barry McBride, vice-president, Academic and Provost. "We've lost a colleague, a creative and distinguished scientist and a friend -- a warm and humble man known for his humanity and generosity. He was a great Canadian and I will miss his friendship, his unwavering commitment to excellence and his personal support."

Smith, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993, was the director of BC Cancer Agency's Genome Sequence Centre in Vancouver.

The prize recognized his groundbreaking work in reprogramming segments of DNA, the building blocks of life.

"Michael's work launched a new era in genetics research -- that's his legacy to science," says Indira Samarasekera, UBC's vice-president, Research. "His discovery has paved the way to finding new treatments for life-threatening illness."

Born in Blackpool, England, he received his PhD in 1956 from the University of Manchester and completed his post-doctoral fellowship with the B.C. Research Council in 1960. He joined UBC in 1966.

In 1987, he founded UBC 's Biotechnology Laboratory which is expanding to include a new building that will bear his name.

He was named a Peter Wall Distinguished Professor of Biotechnology at UBC and many of his students have gained international scientific reputations.

A founding Scientific Leader of the Protein Engineering Network of Centres of Excellence, Smith was named a Career Investigator of the Medical Research Council of Canada in 1966.

He was appointed a director of the Canada Foundation for Innovation in 1997.

Well-known for his commitment to human welfare and science education, Smith donated half of his Nobel Prize to the Schizophrenia Society of Canada and the Canadian Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia.

The other half of his prize established an endowment fund whose income supports the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology and a program for elementary school teachers provided by Science World BC.

The Royal Bank Award, which he received in 1999, included a companion grant which he donated to the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

In addition, the Michael Smith Awards, sponsored by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, honour individuals and organizations who make an outstanding contribution to the promotion of science in Canada.

Smith received numerous awards and distinctions including: Companion of the Order of Canada; Order of British Columbia; University Killam Professor, UBC; Fellow, Royal Society of Canada; Fellow, Royal Society of London; Canadian Medical Association Medal of Honour and Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

UBC will hold a celebration of the life of Michael Smith Monday, Nov. 6 at 4 p.m. in the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. All are welcome to attend.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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