Professor Trevor Alleyne Thorpe


It is with heavy hearts that we inform you of the passing of Professor Trevor A. Thorpe, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada. He had been suffering from poor health in recent months, and died peacefully in a hospital on 18 May 2020. We convey our heartfelt condolences to Trevor’s wife Rosita (Yvonne) and his children, Jennifer and Anthony.

Dr. Thorpe was a distinguished and truly international scientist. After his early education in his native country of Barbados, he won a scholarship to pursue his undergraduate degree in India. He then went to the University of California, Riverside for his graduate degrees under the direction of Dr. Toshio Murashige. He started his research career at the University of Calgary in 1969. Although he officially retired in 1997, he continued his lab until 2008. Not only did he have a productive career as a scientist, he also held positions as Department Head, Assistant and Associate Dean. He took sabbaticals and interacted closely with renowned scientists in France, Belgium, New Zealand, and Japan. He was also an active contributor to various international organizations and took active roles in training scientists around the world, which included workshops in Mexico, Bangladesh, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Costa Rica.

Trevor was a pioneering scientist who played leading roles in the International Association for Plant Tissue Culture (IAPTC, which is now known as the International Association for Plant Biotechnology or IAPB) and the Society for In Vitro Biology (SIVB). He was the Chair/President of IAPTC from 1974 to 1978 and organized the 1978 IAPTC Calgary conference. He was the founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology-Plant and served as a member of the editorial board for several other leading scientific journals including Plant Cell Tissue & Organ Culture, Tree Physiology, Phytomorphology and Physiologia Plantarum. Also, Trevor edited the Newsletter for IAPTC 1974-1978 while serving as chair of that society.

Trevor’s lab trained and graduated 15 doctoral students, 14 master’s students, 25 post-doctoral scientists, and he served as an external examiner for numerous dissertations and theses. He was a tremendously encouraging and patient supervisor and mentor (genuine father figure) for all his students and postdocs. He believed in and practiced empowering his students fully by giving them a significant amount of academic freedom. He supervised his lab with great distinction until about 2008, when he decided to retire completely and continued on as Professor Emeritus.

During his long and distinguished career, Trevor published more than 220 scientific papers, many of which opened up new areas of research investigations. One of his published books “Plant Tissue Culture. Methods and Applications in Agriculture” became an authoritative and essential reference book to all plant tissue culturists in the pre-internet days.

Here is how some of his former colleagues and research associates described him:
“Trevor was one of the tissue culture giants on whose shoulders we all stand”
“He was such an important part of the science in which we participated that we and those we train have much to remember him by”
“He was a friend, mentor, and inspiration!  He laid out a path for many of us to follow”
“He was a tissue culture scientist in the real sense of the word, in that he had an in-depth understanding of the biology and theory behind tissue culture that went far beyond just following a recipe and getting results”
“I had known him for almost 50 years.  He was a kind, generous and happy person, and a great teacher and mentor to his many students who had a fond regard for him.  We cherish the many enjoyable meals we shared during meetings, his inimitable laugh, and will miss him dearly”
“I count Trevor as one of the four most important mentors I have had during my career, very generous with his time and highly committed to his values. I suspect Trevor and Oluf will continue to have interesting discussions now”
“He was such an open and engaging person, creating an atmosphere in which visiting scientists and aspiring students worked so well together. It felt informal and fun, yet you were always aware he expected your best effort – to me, that is one of the hallmarks of good leadership”
“He was a plant tissue culture pillar, a pioneer and an inspiration to us all”

In 2004 Trevor was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award, which is highest honor given by the SIVB. It recognizes scientists who are considered pioneers or highly influential researchers to the science and art of cell culture.

All of us feel immensely privileged to have been associated with Trevor in some capacity. This is truly a sad loss, but we will always cherish fond memories of him. Despite his outstanding scientific achievements, Trevor remained a humble, warm and caring person. He was always ready for a good joke, good food, fine whiskey and dance music.

The values which he instilled in us are a legacy which will live on. He will not be forgotten.

Submitted by ‘Team Thorpe’
(Trevor’s research family)