|Ahead of print publication
In memoriam Roger V Short (31.7.1930–6.8.2021)
Trevor G Cooper1, David J Handelsman2
1 Tuen Mun, Hong Kong SAR, China
2 ANZAC Research Institute, Concord Hospital, Sydney, NSW 2139, Australia
|Date of Submission||06-Dec-2021|
|Date of Acceptance||08-Dec-2021|
|Date of Web Publication||18-Jan-2022|
Trevor G Cooper,
Tuen Mun, Hong Kong SAR
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Article in PDF
| Foreword from Trevor G Cooper|| |
Roger V Short, Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), born in England in 1930, initially trained as a vet at Bristol University, then completed a Fulbright Scholarship in the states and a PhD at the University of Cambridge. After research in the University's Department of Veterinary Clinical studies until 1972, he became the director of the Medical Research Council Unit of Reproductive Biology in Edinburgh for the next decade, teaming up with Professor David Baird to run a globally renowned research institute where he trained numerous famous scientists. From 2007 to 2014, he was an Editorial Board Member of Asian Journal of Andrology.
His long life affected many people in many countries and in many disciplines [Figure 1]. His varied interests included that of human reproductive health, but in the andrological field, his interests included reproductive hormones (plasma testosterone levels in relation to Musth and sexual activity in male Asiatic elephants; seasonal variations in blood luteinizing hormone [LH] and testosterone in rams; the restoration of libido in castrated red deer stag with estradiol-17β); testicular function (testis weight, body weight, and breeding system in primates; male reproductive organs of the African elephant; and the time of onset of sperm production in boys); testicular steroids (dihydrotestosterone in testicular tissue and its androgenic potency in vivo, and the formation of steroids by the equine fetal testis); regulation of spermatogenesis (functional analysis of the cooled rat testis); germ cell transplantation (sex determination and differentiation in mammalian germ cells, male germ cell transplantation in rats, apparent synchronization of spermatogenesis between host and donor seminiferous epithelia, successful intra- and inter-specific male germ cell transplantation in the rat); and spermatozoa (fluorescent [F] bodies in the spermatozoa of man and the great apes, morphological abnormalities in spermatozoa of man and great apes, and sperm immobilizing properties of lemon juice).
|Figure 1: Montage of photographs of Roger provided by contributors to this article. (a) Roger Short with his equally accomplished wife Marilyn Renfree at the 2014 annual scientific meeting of the Society for Reproductive Biology, a society Roger and Marilyn have made major contributions to over many decades; (b) Roger and Marilyn with Anne McLaren (right) visiting the Laboratory of Prof. Ryuzo Yanagamachi (facing away) in Hawaii. We got to see Cumulina, the cloned mouse during our visit, 2007; (c) Roger, Marilyn, and Andrew Pask, celebrating Marilyn's 70th Birthday Symposium, 2017; (d) Roger was a great collector of treasures. His collection included a 3000-year-old penis carving, dinosaur egg, mammoth tooth, and Saxon helmet – worn here by Roger in his home, 2006; (e) Roger with Marilyn, Tam and Kirsty, celebrating Marilyn's birthday, 2007; (f) Roger has had huge success as a supervisor, with doctoral graduates in senior positions around the world. Here he and Marilyn are celebrating the graduation of Dr. Yirmed Demeke, 2007; (g) Roger popping a cork with Marilyn, 2004; (h) Roger and Marilyn on sabbatical in Geneva, with daughters Tam and Kirsty, and Dennis Lincoln and wife (left) and Roger's daughter Kim (right), 1989; shots of Roger at home in (i) 2005, (j) 2008, (k) 2010, and (l) 2011.|
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Apart from their well-delivered arresting presentations, many of Roger's talks had memorable titles, in seminars (The Epididymeter) and publications (Do the locomotion; Where do babies come from?; Teaching AIDS). The eulogies below have been given by former colleagues and acquaintances, who will all miss his cheery presence.
| Bob Millar|| |
Roger was a mentor to so many, an eloquent speaker and creative thinker. It was always exciting to hear of his next foray into unexplored science, albeit often enormously speculative, but providing scope for novel exploration of research boundaries encompassing a huge range of topics from androgen-dependent canine tooth growth in male baboons, to producing an ostrich egg at a plenary lecture to demonstrate the biggest single cell on the planet. I had the pleasure of his being my external examiner for my PhD as a callow youth from Africa. The examination on the reproductive biology of the rock hyrax lasted 3 h because Roger was fascinated about everything, particularly the ability of the rock hyrax to produce viable sperm when, like its cousins elephants, dugongs, and manatees, it has intra-abdominal testes – a mystery still unsolved. The endearing characteristic of Roger was he made young researchers feel important in sharing their interests.
| Richard Ivell|| |
Roger has had a good innings and has left a huge legacy. I am not sure when I first met him, but it would have been around 1986 or shortly afterward. Ravinder and I met him quite a few times while we were in Australia. I shall always be very grateful to him, because he was one of the few people who made a point of always being kind and friendly to Ravinder, especially in situations such as conferences where others tended not to see her. For both of us, he will always be a role model and a beacon of what “reproductive biology” really means.
| Trevor G Cooper|| |
I was shocked to learn from a German anatomist that the elephant did not have an epididymis and that Roger was cited as the authority; neither statement could be true! Hence, either the article's wording (“no anatomically distinct epididymis”) had been misinterpreted, or only the abstract read: the paper referred to a Wolffian duct of a very respectable 1.6 m in length.
I first met Roger in 1972 at my first SSF meeting in Reading, where I was doing my PhD with Geoff Waites. As chairman, he introduced me as “Dr” Cooper for my first public talk, although I was not then (“but you will be”, he said). These personal touches, making young nervous students feel comfortable, made him approachable in the coffee breaks. His own lectures were aided by their arresting titles; I clearly remember the first talk I heard him give: Androgens, Antlers and Aggression. As for many others, he was my PhD external examiner (and I did become a “Dr”!).
| Malcolm Potts|| |
As a young PhD student at Cambridge in the 1960s, I soon found that Dr Roger Short was mentoring all those with a focus on mammalian reproduction. Roger was a mesmerizing teacher and unrivaled researcher. We all gained from his friendship and extraordinary depth of knowledge. At the same time, he never failed to write for a broad, nonspecialized audience.
Dr Short also pursued the human impact and policy choices related to both the spread of HIV/AIDS, and of unprecedented rates of human population growth. He was one of the first scientists to highlight male circumcision as a variable in HIV transmission.
When the British government saw the need for a center focused on human reproduction, they choose Short to head it – even though he was trained as a vet. The day he took over the new unit in Edinburgh he wrote his resignation letter and slipped it into the desk drawer. Dr Short understood how easy it was for a leader to outstay their welcome.
| Geoff Shaw|| |
I will miss Roger greatly. He was an amazing person and he leaves a lasting legacy.
Roger truly was a gentleman and scholar. An inspirational author of a textbook that guided my career choice through my final undergraduate years; our paths crossed in person at the start of my PhD with Marilyn. Little did I know he was soon to become my “Supervisor-in-law,” a mentor, a colleague, and most of all, a dear friend over the last four decades.
The breadth of Roger's intellect was breath-taking. He saw his role as an educator not as an unfortunate interruption to his research, but as a core element. His lectures always engaged the students, sparked their imaginations, focused their motivations, and empowered his audience. Hence, many of those students went on, inspired by Roger, to apply their training to benefit communities both here and overseas.
In research, I was always amazed at how Roger could peel away complexities to find the simple question that illuminated the way forward. Perhaps, it was the breadth of his knowledge that allowed him to step back and look on any problem from a different perspective to everyone else. Often, he focused on making a real difference; for example, promoting lemon juice as an antiviral to reduce transmission of AIDS in third-world countries where more technological solutions were too expensive or inaccessible.
As a person, despite his eminence, he was always approachable, empathic, fun-loving and friendly. A raconteur extraordinary, he loved to regale us with stories or to recount the detailed history of his eclectic collection of artifacts, treasures that gave him immeasurable pleasure. He was a person to broaden your horizons, to spark your passions and point you in unanticipated directions. He was an amazing human who has enriched my life, as those of so many others, in so many ways.
For a person who preached the importance of population control, it is ironic that he had a large family. But what a family, what a legacy. Roger was an amazing family man, loving, and dearly loved, and he will be sorely missed by all of his extended family.
Roger carried with him always, and could recite from memory, an address by Emerson to the scholars of Dartmouth College nearly two centuries ago. “Make yourself necessary to the world”, Emerson challenged. Roger has certainly risen to that challenge. The world is, indeed, a better place for his life, and is diminished by his passing.
| Andrew Pask, Moira O'Bryan, Jim Mccluskey, Jane Gunn|| |
To all who knew him, Roger Short was a raconteur, a teacher, an inspiration and an idea machine. He was a global leader in the field of reproductive biology and one of many academic “giants” who made Australia their home. Roger made several seminal contributions across his career in the study of progesterone, melatonin and reproduction, in everything from wallabies to elephants and deer. Bob Williamson (Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and FRS) mused, “you never knew what Roger would be coming up with, but you knew it would be interesting!”
Roger joined The University of Melbourne in 1996 in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, from Monash University, where he continued his studies across many themes of reproductive science from breastfeeding as a contraceptive, global health, and HIV transmission, through to marsupial sex differentiation and determination and elephant development. He always referred to himself as “a cabbage, not a carrot!” – spreading his interest and intellect across many diverse topics – as opposed to the narrow and deep carrots. His astounding breadth of knowledge often enabled him to make observations and extract information that others could not, or connect disparate ideas to create a novel path forward. During his time at Melbourne, Roger was awarded a Centenary Medal (2001) and member of the Order of Australia (2004).
He also made major contributions to teaching at the university and leaves a lasting legacy in the form of the many undergraduate and postgraduate students whom he inspired; many of these reflecting on his “generosity of spirit” and speaking of his valuable advice in guiding them on their academic journey. Geoff Shaw, a colleague at Melbourne noted, “As an educator he saw students (to paraphrase an ancient Greek philosopher) not as a vessel to be filled, but as a flame to be lit”. His lectures always engaged the students, sparked their imaginations, focused their motivations, and empowered his audience. So many of those students went on, inspired by Roger, to apply their training to benefit communities both here and overseas.
We will all miss Roger's wit, his stories, and his enduring enthusiasm. A true gentleman scholar whose legacy will no doubt continue to inspire for many decades to come.
We at the University of Melbourne will continue to celebrate Roger's contributions.
| Afterword from David J Handelsman|| |
Roger was one of that rare species, a Great Man of Science, in the grand but nearly lost tradition of the major thinkers in science, who focused more on the headlines, the main outlines of a theory, and only occasionally descending to the mere details. As was said of Edmund Burke, that one could not take shelter with him from a rainstorm without recognizing his greatness, one could not have a discussion with Roger without appreciating the grandeur and scale of his thinking. In the spirit of Darwin and his peers among the monumental 19th century thinkers of science, Roger was focused on the largest themes of reproductive biology in its widest latitude. A typical example outside Andrology is his original enunciation of the two cell-two gonadotropin hypothesis of ovarian estrogen synthesis. Like many of his theoretical expositions, this has proved mostly right, with refinements by others along the way. On the other hand, his description of primate testicular size being related to primate mating systems was mistaken when translated to human biology, by the false analogy of different nonhuman primates with human ethnic groups. As usual, Roger got the large theme right, but in some cases, the devil was in the details of extrapolation. Perhaps, Roger will be best remembered as a late relic of the great age of science. It is said too often after someone's passing that we will not see his like again, but if this was ever more true than trite, it is right to be said for Roger. Vale.