On Saturday the 7th of May 2022, Professor Michael Robin Heath passed away peacefully in his 87th year.
Born in South Africa, Robin Heath grew up in London where he graduated in Dentistry in 1961. Having been awarded an FDS and PhD, he became Chairman and Professor of Gerodontology at the University of London. Robin Heath established the first European MSc course in Gerodontology and supervised over 80 postgraduate and PhD students during his career. He was a life member of the IADR, the British Society of Gerodontology (BSG) and the British Society for the Study of Prosthetic Dentistry (BSSPD). In the Society of Oral Physiology, the so-called Store Kro Club, he was a highly respected and very committed member over many decades. He was particularly influential in the European College of Gerodontology, which made him an honorary member in 2001. The ECG meeting in Stirling, which he organised in 1992, remains unforgotten and unequalled. Robin Heath was particularly well known as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Gerodontology, which is today still the international journal in the field. During the early years the issues were compiled with considerable personal effort, with his assistant Barbara Tucker, in the living room of his home, before it was later more professionally published by Wiley.
Robin Heath was a full blooded academic and mentor, launching and nurturing many academic careers and through his motivation and example, several of his students became and are still international chairs in gerodontology or prosthodontics. He was one of the first to recognise the importance of gerodontology as a subject in the context of the demographic changes in society at large. He also knew how to skilfully link oral physiology with the ageing masticatory system, thus contributing significantly to the modern understanding of masticatory function, especially of edentulous patients with conventional or implant-supported dentures. Not only was his knowledge of the literature extensive, he also knew every author personally and had a signed copy of most of their doctoral theses or at least offprints in his office. One could almost say he was the inventor of ‘networking’ and among his students he created a family team spirit that continues to this day. It was fostered by the open house that he and his wife Maggie ran, where everyone from near and far was welcome. There were of course the wonderful reading weeks at the cottage in Wales, where after long walks along the coastal path, research was discussed in the evenings in front of an open fire over a glass of whisky!
In his private life, Robin was an excellent sailor and passionate photographer. His talent as a tinkerer was mainly lived out in disassembling and assembling vintage cars and this was also put to good use in devising many laboratory experiments. After many years of insidious illness, Robin passed away peacefully after a short stay in hospital. He leaves behind his son James and daughter Gillan with their families and children. His love of academic and critical intellectual exchange, as well as the joy of creativity and innovation that he gave us as we embarked on our professional journey, will remain with us. We will remember him fondly and often. May he rest in peace.