Emeritus Professor Lionel Opie: 1933─2020

20 February 2020 | Photo supplied.
Professor Lionel Opie
Professor Lionel Opie

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Professor Lionel Opie, co-founder of the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa at the University of Cape Town (UCT), on Thursday evening, 20 February 2020.

Professor Opie, internationally recognised as one of the world’s foremost scholars of cardiovascular disease, was born in Hanover, a small Karoo town, in 1933. After qualifying in medicine at UCT in 1955, he realised his ambition and went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 1957 where he obtained a DPhil and trained with two Nobel prize winners: Professor Sir Hans Krebs at Oxford, and Professor Sir Ernst Chain at Imperial College, London.

He returned to Cape Town in 1971, his research supported by Professor Chris Barnard, before being awarded a Medical Research Council Unit for Ischaemic Heart Disease (1976─1998).

In 1999, together with Professor Derek Yellon (University College London), he established the Hatter Institute at UCT as a sister to the Hatter Institute at University College London. He remained the director until his retirement in 2010.

UCT honoured him in 2012 in recognition of his prolific publication record.

His major books are Drugs for the Heart and Heart Physiology: From cell to circulation, which won a UCT book award. This book is often referred to as the “Bible in cardiology”. His books have been used worldwide for teaching and research purposes.

In 2006 he was given the highest award by the President of South Africa, the Order of Mapungubwe, silver, for “Excellent contributions to the knowledge of and achievement in the field of cardiology”. In 2008 he was elected a grade A1 scientist by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa and received an NRF Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.

Professor Opie was highly regarded and well respected by his peers, colleagues and students for his work ethic, humility, integrity and passion for research. He was a great mentor and distinguished teacher, as is evidenced by the successful career paths of his former students, many of whom now hold key positions around the world.

He will be greatly missed by all, particularly the staff and students (both past and present) of the Hatter Institute, who feel privileged to have worked with him and are forever grateful for the wonderful legacy he left behind.

He is survived by his wife, Carol, and his daughters, Jessica and Amelia, and their families.

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