Obituary - Professor Archie McIntyre
Professor McIntyre was in the Department of Physiology, Otago Medical School
from 1949 - 1961 and died last year. We reprint the following obituary from the
Otago Daily Times (7.9.02) by kind permission of the Editor.
Professor Archie McIntyre
For many Otago medical graduates, Archie Mclntyre,
head of the University Physiology Department in
Dunedin in the 1950s, is remembered as a gentle,
thoughtful, innovative and supportive teacher who
inspired a generation of New Zealanders. His 13
years in Dunedin, 10 of them as head of department,
were probably some of the happiest of his life. He
left Otago in 1962 to become foundation professor
of physiology at Monash University in Victoria,
Australia, and was regarded as one of the founders
of modern neuroscience in Australia. Professor
McIntyre retired from Monash in 1978; He died in
Launceston, Tasmania, on July 20, 2002, at the age
Those who studied under him at the University of Otago almost 50 years ago retain
lasting memories of him and his inspirational teaching. A former senior physiology
lecturer, John Allison, says it was Archie McIntyre who "sparked my interest in
physiology - and, 40 years on, it's never left me". His particular skill was in being
able to arouse curiosity with a comment about a particular part of the body and how
it worked, and setting students off to find out for themselves through experiments.
One of many expatriate New Zealanders who counts himself fortunate to have
worked under Professor McIntyre's supervision is Oxford-based neurophysiologist,
Julian Jack. He described Professor McIntyre as "very gentle and relatively
permissive as a supervisor, but without making one feel he did not care". Some
doctoral supervisors were often not so supportive, perhaps fearful of being
overtaken by their "children", Professor Jack said. "Archie was completely happy
to be totally supportive and provided the kind of mentorship which resulted in
many of his students going on to high positions - unfortunately, overseas."
What Professor Jack recalled as a "a piece of informed imagination" led to work
by an Otago contemporary, Ian McDonald, now retired from the Institute of
Neurology in Queens Square, London, into trying to understand multiple sclerosis,
the disease where the long nerves (axons) lose areas of their fatty covering (myelin).
"That research launched Ian on work which enabled him to show, for the first
time, that it was possible for the 'connecting wires' still to work; that the axons
don't necessarily stop conducting." It was one of the major therapeutic hopes for
treatment of MS and led to the realisation it was possible to relieve symptoms.
During several hours of conversations with former Monash colleague Uwe Proske
in 1994, Professor Mclntyre spoke about his life and work, in Australia and New
Zealand, as well as at the Rockefeller Institute in New York, where he held a
fellowship from 1946 to 1948, before going to Cambridge on a Nuffield
Scholarship. His fondest memories were of his students and of how much he
learned from them. It was "a constant source of pleasure to him" to see them
succeed at their work. Professor Proske said.
To his family and others, Professor McIntyre was a kind husband, father and
friend, an entertaining story-teller and singer, a bush walker, mountain climber,
fly-fisherman and skier, who forged strong links with the Southern Lakes area
during his years at Otago. His daughter, Margaret, described him as "a wonderful
father" who loved taking the family camping and bush-walking at Glenorchy. He
loved telling them stories and playing the guitar so they could all sing along. An
enthusiastic climber, he ascended Mount Earnslaw several times, as well as Mount
Aspiring and Fiordland peaks.
He also loved fishing. Tommy Thomson of Mount Earnslaw Station, where
Professor Mclntyre and a colleague built a fishing hut, recalled that he forgot
everything else when he was out fishing, on one occasion happily having "one
more cast", apparently oblivious to the fact his family was waiting for him to
return to Dunedin.
Every Sunday evening, it was a ritual for Professor McIntyre to read to the children
stories from the classics, as well as from the work of other writers such as James
Thurber and Stephen Leacock. "At his wake, we sang songs we used to sing with
him, and we drank a couple of bottles of his Montacute Chardonnay, which had
aged well", Margaret said.
In retirement, Professor McIntyre and his wife, Anne, had a property, "Montacute",
overlooking the Tamar Valley on the outskirts of Launceston, in Tasmania. He
planted about 50 vines and, with his training in chemistry, they were soon self sufficient
Archibald Keverall Mclntyre was born in Edinburgh on May 1, 1913, the second
of four children. After initial schooling from his mother and in Tasmania, he
completed his education at Barker College, Hornsby, in Sydney, before entering
Sydney University at the age of 16. He graduated BSc with first-class honours in
1934 and with first-class honours in medicine and surgery in 1937.
He and Anne married in 1940. He joined the air force where he developed a
method of selecting air sickness-prone subjects who were then not sent on for
pilot training. He also began work on anti-blackout suits for pilots and was assigned
as medical officer to an experimental centrifuge in Sydney, going on to centrifuge
laboratories in the United States and Britain. For a time he worked with the
Physiological Aviation Medicine Unit on ejector seats, himself participating in all
the experiments, some of them dangerous. "He believed you couldn't ask others
to do what you were not prepared to do yourself', Professor Proske recorded.
And Margaret said troubles her father had with his legs in later life could probably
be traced back to that time.
When he was demobilized in 1946, Professor McIntyre was awarded a Rockefeller
Fellowship. He spent two years at the Rockefeller Institute in New York, studying
reflexes with other neuroscientists before going to Cambridge on a Nuffield
Scholarship. It was while he was in Cambridge that he was offered the position in
Dunedin where he was to influence so many students who remember him with
gratitude and affection so many years later.
Professor McIntyre is survived by his wife, Anne, daughter Margaret, sons, Michael
and Richard, five granddaughters, one grandson and a great granddaughter.
Bulletin 26, 2002/2003