Honoring Colin Johnston
Although not a geneticist, the late Austin Doyle placed tremendous value on pedigrees in hypertension research. He cherished his own scientific inheritance from Horace Smirk and took great pride in launching the next generation who, through their own fine achievements, would maintain the tradition. Intellect and a keen sense of competition were important prerequisites, and a promising young cardiovascular research fellow (and athlete at the national competitive level) from Sydney, Australia, attracted Austin’s attention. As a result, Colin Johnston was appointed first assistant in the Department of Medicine at the Austin Hospital, Melbourne, in 1968. In December 1999, Colin retired as professor and head of the same department.
In the intervening years, Colin proved himself to be an outstanding clinical scientist, respected internationally for his leadership and achievements. His credentials include authorship of over 450 papers in leading international journals, supervision of 70 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, membership to the editorial boards of 13 international journals, and invitations to present at innumerable scientific conferences. His most significant research contributions have been in the clinical and experimental fields addressing the renal and hormonal regulation of blood pressure. He was vice president of the International Society of Hypertension from 1988 to 1990 and chairman of the organizing committee for the highly successful 15th Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Hypertension in Melbourne in 1994. Colin has been a tireless contributor to hospital, university, and professional boards and committees. His opinion is highly regarded by everyone from undergraduate students to multinational pharmaceutical companies.
His conspicuous accomplishments have been honored in many ways. Scientific peers awarded Colin the Franz Volhard Award of the International Society of Hypertension in 1992 and the Richard Bright Distinguished Award of the American Society of Hypertension in 1995.
His clinical peers awarded him the College Medal of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 1995, and in 1996, his country bestowed the award of Officer of the Order of Australia.
There can be no better measure of Colin’s standing in the hypertension world than the willingness with which people travelled vast distances to share in a meeting to mark Colin’s retirement and celebrate his success. The celebration was held over 3 days in the coastal town of Lorne on the spectacular Great Ocean Road, southwest of Melbourne. Not since the International Society of Hypertension meeting that was held in Melbourne had there been such a distinguished gathering, comprising those who knew Colin as a teacher, scientist, doctor, administrator, mentor, and friend.
The program embraced scientific papers and 2 debates on contemporary themes: “That 140/85 is Low Enough” and “That Large Clinical Trials Have Had Their Day.” The resulting mix of scientific rigor and good humor was invigorating, providing a fitting tribute in a style that very much reflected Colin’s disposition.
Manuscripts for the proceedings of “Colin Johnston - A Celebration” were not mandatory, but the papers appearing in this issue and the next 2 issues of Hypertension are testimony to the personal generosity and tribute of Colin’s friends and colleagues. The publication was facilitated by a generous educational grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceuticals. This issue contains papers relevant to the renal and hormonal research to which Colin has made such a fine contribution.
The papers appearing in the next issue reflect Colin’s commitment to clinical research. Finally, the last series mirrors those fields in basic experimental science in which Colin has left an indelible mark. It is also fitting that this group comprises some of the next generation of outstanding Australian scientists. The tradition continues and Colin can be proud.
The opinions expressed in this editorial are not necessarily those of the editors or of the American Heart Association.