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Friday June 25, 2010

CHARLES THOMAS BEER (D. PHIL. OXON 1915-2010) On June 15th Dr. Charles Beer died peacefully at his Sunrise Senior Living Home in Vancouver. He was born in Leigh, Dorset (England) on November 18, 1915. At an early age he became interested in science and in 1948 received a D. Phil. in Chemistry from Oxford University. In 1951 he moved to North America, accepting research fellowships and positions at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York City (1951-54), the University of Western Ontario (1954-55, 1957-60), McGill-Montreal General Hospital Research Institute (1955-56) and the University of British Columbia (1960-81) where he became Professor in the Department of Biochemistry in 1967. He was also an Honorary Senior Scientist in the Department of Cancer Endocrinology at the British Columbia Cancer Agency. Dr. Beer's major contribution to medicine was the isolation of the anti-cancer drug 'vinblastine' from the leaves of the Madagascar periwinkle plant (vinca rosea) at the University of Western Ontario in 1958 where he worked closely with Dr. Robert L. Noble. His biochemical expertise was crucial to the isolation and purification of vinblastine a drug that is still used in the clinic for therapy of a variety of cancers. The discovery of vinblastine is generally considered a milestone in the development of chemotherapy. In 1997 Dr. Beer was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, together with Dr. Noble; he became a Member of the Order of Canada in 2003. Highly intelligent, articulate and witty, he delighted in conversation and was always keen to talk about science. In his heyday he was an ardent mountaineer and thoroughly enjoyed his association with the Alpine Club of Canada where he formed lifelong friendships. The last of a family whose lineage stretches back hundreds of years, Dr. Beer will be sincerely missed by colleagues and friends. A memorial lecture honouring Dr. Beer will be held at 11 am on Thursday, July 15, 2010, at the Diamond Lecture Theatre, BC Cancer Research Centre, 675 West 10th Avenue followed by a reception.

Down in Devon, down in Devon,
There's a village by the sea,
It's a little piece of heaven
And the angels call it Beer!

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