In Memoriam: Dr. Louis I. Woolf, Professor Emeritus

 

Dr. Louis I. Woolf, Professor Emeritus, pictured far left receiving an award in 2019 from Dr. Rodney Howell, president of the International Society for Neonatal Screening, and Dr. Graham Sinclair, Clinical Professor in the UBC Department of Pathology

We have learned from the family of Dr. Louis I. Woolf, Professor Emeritus in the UBC Department of Psychiatry, that sadly, he passed away on Sunday January 7, 2021 at the age of 101.
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Dr. Woolf first joined UBC in 1968 as a part of a research group in neurochemistry and neurophysiology in the Division of Neurological Sciences, then moved to the Department of Psychiatry in 1973 where he remained until his retirement in 1984. Leading a research program investigating inborn errors of metabolism, Dr. Woolf was at the forefront of and played an intrinsic role in the development and adoption of neonatal screening, opening a new path in public health and preventive medicine. Long after his retirement in 2019, he and John Adams of CANPKU published a paper on the early history of PKU screening (https://www.mdpi.com/2409-515X/6/3/59). The editor of that journal exclaimed that Dr. Woolf must have achieved some kind of record having published an original paper in a scientific journal at the age of 100.
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Prior to his arrival at UBC, Dr. Woolf taught at Brighton Polytechnic, then held a research post at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, where he developed the diet that treats phenylketonuria (PKU). In 1958, Dr. Woolf moved to the MRC Population Genetics Unit at Oxford, and then to the Department of the Regius Professor of Medicine, also at Oxford. It was there that he and others first introduced and developed the screening program that detected PKU in newborns, enabling early treatment. This has since been expanded to screen for several other inborn errors of metabolism, and is in use today for newborns in most countries.
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Louis Isaac Woolf was born in London, England in April 1919, the third child of six. He went to Grocers’ School in Hackney, London (Now Hackney Downs Grammar School), and then to University College London, where he studied Chemistry. During WWII, UCL was evacuated to Aberystwyth in Wales, and it was there that he finished his degree as well as his Ph.D. In 1943 he married Frances Richards, whom he met at Aberystwyth, and in 1944 their only child, Lesley, was born. He is survived by Lesley and by her two sons, Benjamin and Oliver, and his two great-grandchildren, Graham and Willow.
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If any Department members have sentiments or a message they wish to share with Dr. Woolf’s family, please send them to Margaret Koshi at margaret.koshi@ubc.ca, and she will be happy to relay the message on your behalf.