Geoffrey N Hendy (1948 – 2018)

by Lucie Canaff, David EC Cole and Vito Guarnieri

Geoffrey N Hendy was born in London in 1948, he received a BS at the University of Sheffield and then a PhD at the University of London. Since the PhD course Geoffrey demonstrated his outstanding intellectual gifts being part of the group of talented pioneer researchers who cloned the parathyroid hormone gene. After that, he moved to the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston followed by Harvard and MIT.

After a brief return to the UK, Geoffrey decided to accept the appointment of Associate Professor of Medicine at the McGill University in Montreal, Canada. There he lay the foundation of his life’s work, dedicating his efforts to the study of genetic causes of mineral metabolism disorders with particular interest to the CASR (Calcium Sensing receptor) gene. In the meantime, his research interests extended to the study of the pathophysiology of tumour suppressors and oncogenes involved in endophenotypes associated with Primary Hyperparathyroidism, such as MEN1, GCMb and CDC73. At McGill, Geoffrey remained for 34 ys as Assistant Professor in Medicine before, then as Associate in Physiology, and finally as Professor in Medicine and Human Genetics. His astonishing scientific production records 248 refereed papers published on the more prestigious journals and countless book chapters, that resulted in Geoffrey’s receipt of several eminent awards and honours. As recalled by the chief of his Department, Dr David Goltzman, Geoff served for long time as a precious mentor at the Department of Human Genetics, either for undergraduate students and for many PhDs that greatly benefitted from his knowledge and career advices.

Apart from his profile of outstanding research, Geoffrey was gifted imitator of that special “British”, sometimes, just funny, dry, sense of humour: “Speaking with oneself is sometimes the only way to have an intelligent conversation…” he used to say. He was quite a pleasant guest to share some of his free time in front of a steak and a martini or a good bottle of red wine. He was also an art lover among his passions outside of work. He delighted in taking hundreds of pictures in various museums and Art Galleries he visited not only on his trips to London but also in every city his work led him. And for every picture, he always had a detailed historical comment to add.

I knew Geoff 15 years ago, when I started to work on pHPT and I had the undeserved privilege to make part of a working group of amazing scientists such as Geoff, Lucie Canaff, David Cole and Alfredo Scillitani. Few years later I had the opportunity to spent 1 ys in Geoff’s lab at the McGill University. I fixed in my mind that period for the whirlwind of activities and novel experiences to live in a prestigious team as the Calcium Laboratory represented. I remember with fond all the suggestions, advices and support especially when experiments didn’t go as expected. Geoff taught me that as much as you think you did a good job, you can always improve it because a published paper is not the final conclusion of a work but just the beginning of a new and better one. We shared projects, results and aims up to the end, few weeks before his demise, when, unconcerned of the disease, he commented with his usual enthusiasm the results, thinking about future goals. We will miss him a lot.