Obituary: Dr James Howard

JAMES HOWARD was a gentleman in the increasingly competitive world of science. He had a broad vision and passion for fine art and music and crossed the line between academia and industry. He gained international recognition for his contribution to the study of immunology, especially for his work on cellular immunological responses to grafts and on the mechanisms which bring about tolerance to them. In 1984, this contribution was recognised by his election as Fellow of the Royal Society.

His later work on the host immune mechanisms against the protozoan parasitic disease leishmaniasis inspired a generation of immuno-parasitologists, significantly contributing to and sustaining the pre-eminent position of the United Kingdom in the field of parasitology. He served in advisory roles for such bodies as the World Health Organisation, the Medical Research Council, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, and Direction Generale de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique, France, and also acted on the editorial boards of various journals of immunology.

The only child of Joseph and Kathleen Howard, James Howard was born in New Malden, Surrey, in 1927. From an early age he displayed a thirst for knowledge, and was fortunate to attend the enlightened Raynes Park Grammar School, which was staffed by a wartime infusion of distinguished teachers; the broadcasters Robert Robinson and Paul Vaughan were among his contemporaries. It was here that his interest in science and deep love of music were first aroused and nurtured.

Howard went on to study medicine at the Middlesex Hospital in London, after which he chose to follow a laboratory rather than a clinical career. In 1949, he met Opal Echalaz, an art student at Camberwell, whom he married in 1951, just before starting army service in Wiltshire. This was to mark the beginning of a long and happy marriage, during which she continued to paint and exhibit her paintings widely.

After completing National Service with the rank of major, Howard took up a research fellowship at the Wright-Fleming Institute, St Mary's Hospital, London, where he completed his PhD in 1957. The following year, he was appointed to a lectureship in the Department of Surgical Science at Edinburgh University, where he became Reader in Zoology. During this period he was offered a six-month fellowship by the late Professor Lewis Thomas in New York University, and this started his love of the United States, where he was to make regular visits.

In 1969, Howard returned south to head the Department of Immunobiology at the Wellcome Research Laboratories in Beckenham, Kent, where he subsequently became Director of Biomedical Research. Here, effectively and yet unobtrusively, he built up a centre of excellence in immunology and parasitology, recruiting young talents from across the world. At one stage, eight languages were spoken in his department; English was occasionally heard.

This was to be Howard's most productive period. He showed with great precision and clarity that immunological tolerance - the silencing of immune reactions to foreign materials in the body - could be brought about not only by protein antigens but also by carbohydrates such as dextrans. This suggested that carbohydrates might be used to induce acceptance of foreign organ grafts. Conversely the work also suggested that bacteria which carry substantial amounts of carbohydrate antigens on their surface might also induce immunological tolerance in such a way that the body would no longer be able to mount an immunological attack against the bacteria. Therefore carbohydrates may contribute to the successful survival and multiplication of bacteria and thus enhance their virulence.

His work on the immune response to leishmaniasis was also carried out at the Wellcome Reseach Laboratories. The disease is caused by the protozoan parasite Leishmania major, named after Lt-Gen Sir William Boog Leishman who discovered it while serving in the Army in India at the turn of the century. Howard and colleagues were the first to show that, depending on the host's genetic constitution, the parasite can either induce a protective immune response, or a disease-promoting response. Furthermore, they showed that these responses were mediated by different subsets of small white blood cells called T lymphocytes. This work generated a profound interest in leishmaniasis among immunologists, making it immunologically one of the best- understood infectious diseases.

Howard left the Wellcome Research Laboratories in 1985 to join the Wellcome Trust in London as Programme Director for infectious and tropical diseases until his retirement in 1990. His broad knowledge of science and scientists contributed significantly to the development of the trust, where his characteristic courtesy, attention to detail and intellectual integrity were much valued.

James Howard was a man with great zest for life, with wide and varied interests. His love of classical music, fine wine and the culinary art was well known. He took his laboratory skills into the kitchen. Invitations to his dinner parties were much sought after. In dress, he went against the casual trend of his fellow scientists and was seldom seen without a tie. He loved to relate amusing anecdotes and appreciated good humour. His sense of humour permeated his work, which will live long after him.

James Griffiths Howard, biomedical scientist: born New Malden, Surrey 25 September 1927; Research Fellow, Wright-Fleming Institute, St Mary's Hospital, London 1955-58; Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader, Department of Surgical Science, Edinburgh University 1958-66, Reader and Head of Immunobiology Section, Department of Zoology 1966-69; Head, Experimental Immunobiology Department, Wellcome Research Laboratories 1969-74, Head, Experimental Biology Division 1974-83, Director, Biomedical Research 1984- 85; FRS 1984; Programme Director, Wellcome Trust, 1986-90; married 1951 Opal St Clair (nee Echalaz; two daughters, and one son deceased); died Sarnesfield, Herefordshire 6 October 1998.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas