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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 12 | Oct. 10, 2002

In Memoriam: Peter Hochachka

By Dr. David R. Jones

Peter Hochachka OC, PhD, LL.D, FRSC died at his home in Vancouver on Sept.16 cared for by those he loved the most: his wife Brenda and his children, Claire, Gail and Gareth. With his family’s unfailing support, Peter had waged a gallant battle against cancer with a fortitude and good humour that was an inspiration to his many friends and colleagues.

Peter was born in Bordenave, Alberta in 1937 and was introduced to the wonders of nature by his father and grandfather. He credited his grandfather with teaching him “to see nature” and his father with teaching him “to understand it.” We are all the beneficiaries of the fruit of these childhood experiences.

Peter became Canada’s foremost zoologist, and one of those most fortunate of scientists able to weld a research career with a national and international career in science, communication and service. For this he received many awards, but two were especially dear to his heart: the Fry medal from the Canadian Zoological Society because of the influence F.E.J. Fry had on his research approaches and philosophy, and the Order of Canada because it represented the summation of his achievement. He wore the ‘snowflake’ faithfully and with great pride.

Peter was the father of the field of adaptational biochemistry, which was described in a Science review of his recent book with George Somero (Biochemical Adaptation) as “how molecules make organisms work best within their own specific environmental conditions.” Adaptational biochemistry is Peter’s legacy to science, Canada and the world.

Peter recognized the implications of his research in areas far beyond narrow disciplinary boundaries. He provoked and facilitated interactions between pure and clinical research fields, becoming one of the world’s leading theoreticians on defense mechanisms against low oxygen. This resulted in a number of cross appointments with departments at UBC, including the Prostate Centre at VGH. The latter association led to a groundbreaking paper on the hypoxia connection in prostate cancer with his surgeons as co-authors.

Peter was the most peripatetic of scientists. The world was both his laboratory and his lecture hall. He dealt in superlatives; the fastest swimmer, the slowest walker, the fleetest flyer, the highest climber, the deepest diver and, with colleagues and students, he put a girdle round the globe in search of new subjects, spreading the scientific word, igniting ideas with his infectious enthusiasm, and always finding yet further avenues to pursue.

Peter was one of a kind. Life was an adventure and cancer was a new challenge, ultimately leading Peter to acknowledge his future assignments in a farewell to his colleagues: “to check out the concept of parallel universes and the implications of entanglement.” That was Peter, and he will be sorely missed.

Dr. David R. Jones is a professor of Zoology at UBC and was a long-time friend and colleague of Dr. Hochachka’s.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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