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Medical Scientist Elected To Royal Society


Renowned medical research scientist Professor Peter Gluckman of The University of Auckland has joined an elite group of New Zealand-born scientists with his election in London as a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society.

Founded in 1660, the Royal Society rewards scientific excellence by electing to its Fellowship the most distinguished scientists in the UK and the Commonwealth – a group Professor Gluckman now joins as a result of an illustrious career in the field of paediatrics and perinatology.

Only 35 New Zealand-born scientists have been elected Fellows since the first, ornithologist Walter Buller, in 1879, making this a rare honour.

Professor Gluckman’s major field of research is perinatal physiology. His work has focused on understanding the basic mechanisms of two major obstetric and perinatal problems – infant brain injury resulting from oxygen deprivation and intrauterine growth retardation.

One of Professor Gluckman’s team’s more publicised accomplishments was the development of a cooling cap for oxygen-deprived newborn babies. This piece of true Kiwi ingenuity and medical brilliance employed the mechanics of an office water cooler and a baby’s bonnet to prevent or reduce the degeneration of an infant’s brain cells.

Professor Gluckman and his research team have also developed a series of neuronal rescue therapies – including classes of drugs designed to prevent the death of brain cells caused by acute neurological injuries, such as stroke, head trauma or perinatal asphyxia, or neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Fittingly, Professor Gluckman’s election to the Royal Society comes twenty-one years after his former mentor Sir Graham Liggins was bestowed the same honour for his life-long work on foetal physiology and factors controlling the birth process.

A former academic of The University of Auckland, Sir Graham was recently further honoured by the University with the naming of its first research institute – the Liggins Institute – which will be headed by Professor Gluckman.

Chemistry Professor Warren Roper is the only other living Royal Society Fellow from the University of Auckland. He was elected a Fellow in 1989.


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