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Tributes paid following death of ‘popular’, and ‘witty’ Emmanuel College fellow Prof Robert Henderson, of the Department of Pharmacology





Robert Henderson, a longstanding fellow of Emmanuel College and professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Cambridge, has died at the age of 66 following a short illness.

He has been described as a “popular teacher” with “deep knowledge” and a “calm nature”, who will be “long remembered”.

Prof Robert Henderson, a fellow of Emmanuel College and professor in the Department of Pharmacology
Prof Robert Henderson, a fellow of Emmanuel College and professor in the Department of Pharmacology

Prof Henderson obtained his first degree in comparative physiology from Queen Mary College, London, and PhD - for which he studied intracellular pH regulation in the liver - from the London Hospital Medical College.

He stayed at the college for three years for postdoctoral work, before spending four years between 1984 and 1988 at Yale University, as a research associate in Dr Gerhard Giebisch's laboratory in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology in New Haven, Connecticut. There, he worked on membrane ion transport mechanisms in the liver and kidney.

In 1988, he joined the Department of Pharmacology at Cambridge to work on ion-transporting epithelia, before moving into atomic force microscopy. Appointed to a lectureship, he held the position of professor of macromolecular pharmacology at Cambridge.

His research explored the use of the atomic force microscope to investigate topics in cell biology, particularly the structure of and interactions between membrane proteins, and the interaction of restriction enzymes and anti-cancer drugs with DNA.

He held a number of other positions at the university, including serving on the Covid 'Gold' Committee, and was a committed member of Emmanuel College, where he was Senior Tutor from 2011. He was also a fellow of the British Pharmacological Society.

Prof Laura Itzhaki, head of the Department of Pharmacology, said: “Robert was a devoted member of the department, leading our staff on all aspects of undergraduate teaching and delivering across the curriculum to medicine/veterinary medicine and natural sciences students.

“He was a popular teacher, able to make even the most complicated concepts accessible and interesting, and a committed colleague, known for his witty anecdotes and steadfast loyalty to the department and his college. His deep knowledge and calm nature were greatly valued by all who knew him. He will be greatly missed.”

Doug Chalmers, master of Emmanuel College, said: “Robert was blessed with an incredibly well-timed wit, enjoyed cooking, and was a very accomplished skier. But he didn’t live for himself. He lived to help others.

“He was an incredibly kind and altruistic mentor, advisor and loyal, caring man.He never advertised the legion of actions and kindnesses that he conducted. They were thus rarely noticed. But we notice their absence now.



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