UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 12 | Oct.
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
familys 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
Peter became Canadas 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 Peters
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 worlds 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
Dr. David R. Jones is a professor of Zoology at UBC and
was a long-time friend and colleague of Dr. Hochachkas.