Letters of tribute from EuroMyasthenia Partners

A very sad event indeed, for everybody and especially for the Romanian MG patients. We feel like we are cursed. On the day of the accident, Prof Newsom-Davis had visited a neurological clinic in Bucharest where he intented to start a study about early thymectomy in MG patients (according to Dr Ioana Mindruta, the clinician involved in the study).She told me that everybody was so excited about this collaboration, so much hope for us the patients... but once more we were so unlucky, ...we lost a father too... Ioana told me that the professor and his wife just left the clinic and went to a trip to see the ancient painted monasteries in Moldavia ...then was the tragedy. It's awful.

Nadia Radulescu, Romanian MG Association

Bucarest, September 5th, 2007

The scientific community and the community of patients have been sadly hurt by John Newsom-Davis' sudden death.

The French Muscular Dystrophy Association (AFM) wishes to express its deep sorrow and to acknowledge Dr. Newsom-Davis' fundamental contributions to the understanding and treatment of Myasthenia gravis.

Paris, September 5th, 2007

I am deeply shocked about this sudden, unexpected death of John. My husband and I have known him since 1974, before he was devoted to myasthenia but to the respiratory physiology. I had rather often mail or personal contacts with him. I met him as late as in February this year in Uppsala (Sweden) when he was an opponent to Anna Rostedt-Pungas disputation.

He was one of the most generous colleagues to my knowledge. He was always ready to discuss about difficult clinical problems concerning myasthenia gravis and myasthenic syndromes. His death came too early; he had had much to give to the MG research. We really miss him deeply and our thoughts go to his family and coworkers.  

Kind regards

Ritva (and Georg) Matell

Stockholm, September 6th, 2007

Dear Friends and Partners,

It's really too sad news that you sent me. My sympathy is with everybody in the big Myasthenia Gravis Family. John was my teacher in myasthenia gravis subject from time when I first met him in 1989 years. He was always ready to help us and support us in our work. We shall miss him very much and we shall keep him and his way of work in our memories.

My colleague Marija Zagar and other colleagues from University Hospital Zagreb as well as President of the Croatian Myasthenia Gravis Association join with my sympathies.

Marija Sostarko

Zagreb, September 6th, 2007

This is indeed a very sad peice of news. We will all miss him very much.

Chantal Tallaksen

Oslo, September 7th, 2007

John Newsom-Davis was a very energetic, kind and encouraging friend, colleague and gentleman. Since he touched so MANY lives, John will leave many broken hearts and several HUGE vacua, eg, among patients, colleagues, myastheniologists, thymectomists, younger medics, editors, charities/ research councils, friends and family.

My overwhelming feelings are:-

- gratitude for how much he did do; he packed a LOT more into his 75 years than I could do in 175; also that he went out at the top of his game and was spared any chronic incapacity;

- that it is a waste more than a tragedy -- he was still so full of energy

and activities [like the thymectomy trial];

- that, at the least, we who are left must now try to keep his activities on the boil as much as we can.

Nick Willcox

Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine John Radcliffe Hospital Oxford OX3 9DS UK

September 8th, 2007

I believe I first met John in 1978, at a meeting in San Francisco regarding the then-new procedure of plasmapheresis in MG. We had begun performing plasmapheresis in the MG clinic at the University of Virginia the previous year, stimulated by the pioneering work that John and his colleagues at the Royal Free Hospital had published in 1976. During a subsequent visit with us in Charlottesville , John and I discovered several areas of mutual interest: I had recently earned my pilot's license and was impressed to learn that John had flown jets in the RAF before going into medicine. We also discovered a mutual appreciation of Alfa-Romeo cars. I had been stationed for three years with the USAF near Cambridge , where he took his medical degree, so we could discuss local events there as well.

It's probably not well-known that John performed EMGs early in his medical career and had authored a very nice paper on phrenic nerve conduction studies in 1967. At the time of his visit to Charlottesville , we were collecting reference values for single fiber EMG and John graciously allowed us to add results from his muscles to our data.

Our paths crossed many times over the years thereafter and it was always a pleasure to discuss not only his latest work in MG, but also to revisit some of our other mutual interests. He was a major and guiding force in MG during my entire professional career, and I will miss that almost as much as I will miss our personal interactions.

Don Sanders

Division of Neurology, Duke University Medical Center. Durham, USA

September 11th, 2007

What a loss for us all. John was the most excellent researcher, the superb clinician, and a very open-minded, warm and kind colleague and friend. My 1 year research stay in Oxford 1992-93 showed me even clearer his brilliance and his friendliness. My thoughts go to Rosemary and to John's family.

My warm regards

Nils Erik Gilhus

September 11th, 2007

Tribute to Prof. John NEWSOM-DAVIS by Alexander Marx, MD, and Philipp Ströbel, MD

Institute of Pathology, University Hospital Mannheim, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany

First of all, we would like to sincerely offer our deeply felt condolences to John's family, the members of the " Oxford neuromuscular group" and all his close friends.

No doubt, John's death leaves us with a most saddening and irreplaceable loss both in personal and scientific respects. His warm and friendly personality and his rare and remarkable attitude to seriously listen and give valuable advice to everybody, including newcomers in his beloved fields of neuromuscular diseases and autoimmunity made him one of the most unusual “characters” in science we ever met. As a novice in autoimmunity research, I (Alex) had the pleasure to meet him for the first time during the legendary 2 nd European Conference on Myasthenia Gravis (MG) in Tremezzo , Italy , in 1989. No doubt, that conference launched my sustained interest in MG research and John had a great part in it both for scientific and “atmospheric” reasons: John's invitation to the participants at the end of the luxurious Tremezzo meeting to joint him at the “austere” Wadham College in Oxford for the 3 rd European Myasthenia Conference in 1991 was a highlight of scientific passion, motivation, humour, wit and irony. With these rare qualities, John gave MG research an unmistakable and highly appreciated voice in the world, a voice that was British and cosmopolitan alike.

Apart from his own unique and formative influence on the understanding of neuromuscular diseases, particularly Myasthenia gravis (MG), and his personal “milestone contributions” to MG treatment, John's warm character, natural authority and apparently inexhaustible power enabled him to recruit and maintain one of the most remarkable, stable and still highly productive scientific teams in neurology for decades - composed of an unmistakable group of gifted scientists and marvellous individualists that became the leaders in their fields by an admirable strategy to follow ideas off the beaten track and concertedly achieve shared aims and break new grounds. Like many friends and colleagues from the MG community, we had the pleasure and honour to meet John in Oxford on the occasion of his retirement some years ago. That ceremony is very clear in our memory since it radiated an unforgettable, personal warmth and authentic appreciation for John, underlining that the Oxford group might better be termed the “ Oxford family”. Strikingly, the term boss did not cover the varied facets of John's leadership since he belonged to the rare category of true “family heads” in the best and widest sense, combining the best qualities of brain, heart, farsightedness, visionary enthusiasm and a dash of sporty ambition on a background of fairness, humour and intellectual and rhetoric elegance.

Beyond appreciating John's outstanding position as the leading promoter of research in neuromuscular diseases world-wide, we personally have considered John's true interest in and active support of our MG work first in Wuerzburg and then in Mannheim as a very rare type of “external mentorship” that has gone far beyond the fashionable type of networking. That unselfish mentorship has been both reliable, personally devoted and marvellously long-lasting, including John's recent recommendation concerning the recruitment of our group for the International Thymectomy Trial. We are fully aware of the fact and deeply grateful that John's mentorship and his friendly attitude and inspiration have had an enormous impact on our scientific work and careers. This impact can hardly be overrated considering the fact that MG research is a fine and exquisite niche somewhat off the mainstream even in Neurology. In our field, i.e. Pathology, research in MG, thymoma biology and autoimmunity have always been considered exotic or even extravagant, and it has been John's and his colleagues' strong and highly appreciated company and inspiration, his untiring, successful efforts to open new horizons and his rousing lectures that have helped us pursue our unusual course in Pathology with enthusiasm, satisfaction and confidence.

No doubt, we shall keep John a deeply grateful memory forever.

Alex Marx and Philipp Stroebel

Mannheim , September 11th, 2007

John Newsom-Davis was the hope of many Greek MG patients and a role-model (and very good friend) for Greek researchers and clinicians involved with MG. We are shocked by his sudden death. He made an unprecedented impact on MG and his absence will be obvious to us for very long time.

Socrates Tzartos and colleagues from Athens

September 17th, 2007

I am really upset by the death of John. I saw him three months ago in Chicago and he seemed as keen and dynamic as ever! I knew John for more than thirty years and we often shared our interrogations, ideas and plans for MG treatment. He was a wonderful man always listening with kindliness. He discussed with authority but courteously and his advices were always positive. When one discussed with John one felt clever and the question became clear. His contributions to MG research are, as everybody knows, outstanding in the immunological field, the clinic and the treatment. We will all, immunologists, physicians and patients miss him. And I think to the “ Oxford team” and above all to his family who have a so irretrievable loss.

Philippe Gajdos

Garches, France, September 17th, 2007

We are all deeply saddened by the tragic death of John Newsom-Davis. Our thoughts are with His family.

When we last met him in Warsaw in July, he shared with us his great enthusiasm and clinical expertise, discussed plans for the future research. He was extremely warm and friendly, a superb researcher and a kind man. We will all miss him.

Hubert Kwiecinski

Anna Kaminska

Anna Kostera-Pruszczyk

Warsaw, 18th September 2007