University of Otago Otago Medical School Alumnus Association

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

Professor Archie McIntyre
(1913-2002)

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 of 89.

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 in wine.

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