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Department of Veterinary Medicine

Cambridge Veterinary School
Obituary - Professor Sir Peter Lachmann FRS FMedSci

JANUARY  5/1/2021

It is with great sadness that I report the death of Sir Peter Lachmann who died peacefully in his sleep on 26th December 2020.  He had just celebrated his 89th birthday and Christmas with his family at home in Cambridge.

In 1970 Sir Peter was the first Professor and Head of Immunology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital, London where he established a leading centre of excellence in immunology in the medical school.  In 1976, he became the first Sheila Joan Smith Professor of Immunology in Cambridge, Director of the MRC Unit on Tumour Immunity at the MRC Centre and Honorary Clinical Immunologist for the Cambridge Health Authority until 1999.  On retirement from the MRC in 1999 he joined the Department of Veterinary Medicine, relocating his research group to the Department. 

Sir Peter was one of the most outstanding immunologist of the last 50 years.  His research spanned both the fundamental and clinical aspects of immunology, leading to the publication of  more than 450 research papers in top journals.  His discoveries were at the cutting edge of immunology.  He elucidated the complex pathways of the complement system and its role in immunity and immunopathology of inflammatory and infectious diseases. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1982 and received many academic accolades including the Gold Medal of the European Complement Network in 1997.  He was Knighted for services to medical science in 2002.

Sir Peter was an inspirational leader whose scientific and intellectual influence was colossal and went far beyond his field.  He had global stature in biomedical sciences through his research, education and mentoring of the next generation of scientists.  In 1998 he became the founding President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, now the foremost academy of medical sciences in the UK.  The Academy has proven to be a much needed academy. The Academy of Medical Sciences now impacts widely on the UK biomedical sciences developments of benefit to Government policies and many research organisations.  His critical insights, influence and wise counsel were always sought after and held in high esteem by many in science and the Pharmaceutical industry.  He was President of the Royal College of Pathologists and Vice President and Biological Secretary of the Royal Society.  His many roles involved him in ethical and policy controversies in medical and biological science. He was a Fellow of Christ's College and Honorary Fellow of Trinity College.

The Department of Veterinary Medicine was extremely fortunate to attract Sir Peter to the Veterinary School in 1999. He considerably enhanced the research capacity of the Vet School providing impetus to our new research developments.

He has been a huge and constant part of hundreds of scientific lives and careers in science and medicine. His critical insights and influence have had a wide impact both nationally and internationally. He was always very supportive of veterinary science and there are many veterinarians today in senior academic positions who were privileged to have worked with Peter and to have had the support of such a brilliant scientific mind. 

Sir Peter was loyal, generous and supportive to many of his colleagues across the world and leaves a huge legacy. He will be much missed. Our sympathies are with his wife Sylvia and his family.

Professor Ian McConnell  Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Science, University of Cambridge