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Professor Liam Burke 1922-2018

28 March 2018

Professor Liam Burke

It is with great sadness that we note the passing of one of UCL School of Pharmacy’s oldest alumni, Professor Liam Burke. Liam died at the age of 95 on February 10th, 2018.

Liam came to the School of Pharmacy, University of London, when it was still situated in Bloomsbury Square after an apprenticeship at Evans Medical Supplies in Liverpool.

He was at the Square during the Second World War and had first hand experience of the Blitz before he graduated in 1945. He spent two years in military service in the air force as a dispenser sergeant but returned to the school as a member of staff in the Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmacology from 1948 to 1951.

His intellectual capacity was recognized by Professor Sir Bernard Katz (Nobel Prize 1970) who took him on as a PhD student in the Department of Pharmacology at UCL. He completed his PhD studies in 1956. In the same year he moved to the Department of Physiology at the University of Sydney where he became associate professor in 1965 and full professor in 1967. Throughout his many years in Sydney he worked with a number of outstanding research students and colleagues producing a series of landmark studies on the mechanisms underlying the brain processing of visual information.

Professor Mike Munday, John O'Keefe and Liam Burke at UCL, 2016

Image: Mike Munday, John O’Keefe and Liam Burke at UCL, 2016

For many years Liam was Head of the Department of Physiology, and gave great support and encouragement to staff and students.  He was much admired for his integrity, insightful scientific curiosity, great sense of humour, total lack of vanity, and generosity of spirit towards his students and colleagues.

Liam retired in 1987 but continued to be active in neurophysiology research as an Emeritus Professor. He last visited UCL School of Pharmacy and main campus in 2016 when he managed to track down his old PhD laboratory and demonstrated the same insightful wit and keen mind in conversations with staff and students. 

Professor Michael R Munday (March 2018)