Doctor Roman Pakula z"l
Dr. Roman (Reuven) Pakula, Plock 1910 - Toronto 1986
Roman Pakula - a Biographical Sketch
Prepared by his colleagues at the Department of
Microbiology at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Roman Pakula
was associated with the Department of Microbiology of the Faculty of Medicine
at the University of Toronto between July 1966 and June 1982. He was born in Plock,
Poland on January 10, 1910 and died in Toronto on September 19, 1986. He is survived by his wife Zofia, a retired
physician, and by his son Andrew, a management and applied social research
with the assistance of scholarships for gifted students, Roman began his
life-long career as a biological scientist at the University of Warsaw.
He elected to specialize in microbiology, a choice which kept him at the
forefront of biological and medical research throughout his lifetime. He was
awarded his Master of Philosophy degree in 1937. His research thesis was
entitled MORPHOLOGY AND PHYSIOLOGY OF TWO STRAINS OF AZOTOBACTER VINELANDII. NITROGEN FIXATION AND SACCHAROSE UPTAKE.
Roman began his
doctoral studies in 1937. Following the September 1, 1939 German invasion of Poland, which launched World War II, he fled to the western
region of the Soviet Union, where he continued his Ph. D. studies at the University of Cazimir in Lwow. In 1941, when the U.S.S.R. was invaded by the Germans, Roman
was drafted into the Russian army. He fought with them throughout the war and
participated in the decisive battle of Stalingrad, now known as Volgograd. For one year after the war, Roman remained in Stalingrad as a lecturer in the Medical School.
In 1946 Roman
returned to Warsaw to Zofia Graubart whom he had married in January of
1940. He resumed his interrupted Ph.D. studies and at the same time taught
biology and chemistry during 1946-1948. He defended his Ph.D. thesis entitled
EXTRACTION OF THE T ANTIGEN FROM STREPTOCOCCUS PYOGENES in June of 1950. In
1953 he earned the degree of Dozent in Science through the Medical School at the University of Warsaw.
The title of his thesis was THE POLYSACCHARIDES OF HEMOLYTIC STREPTOCOCCI. ANALYSIS BY PRECIPITATION AND AGGLUTINATION METHODS.
In 1954 Dr. Pakula
began his professorial career when he received the title of Professor at the University of Warsaw.
Between 1953 and 1964 he was Head of the Department of Microbiology at the Medical School where he taught Bacterial Genetics. In 1948 he had
been named Director of the Streptococcal and Staphylococcal Reference
Laboratories at the State Institute of Hygiene, a post which he retained until
he left Poland.
The esteem in
which Dr. Pakula was held by his colleagues, and his outstanding contributions
to microbiology, bacteriology, serology and the molecular biology which was
beginning to emerge, was attested by his appointment to the Polish Academy of
Science. He was Secretary of its Microbiological Committee between 1953 and
1964. During 1962-1964, Dr. Pakula was Head of the newly established Laboratory
of Bacterial Genetics of the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. In 1949-1950 he was a Fellow of the World Health
Organization and worked at the Central Public Health Laboratories at Colindale
in the north of London, England. Dr. Pakula's international reputation was by now
assured and between 1949 and 1964 he visited many research institutions
throughout the world to describe his revolutionary research in genetic
transformation of bacteria. Because of his expertise, he was appointed to the
International Subcommittee for Phage Typing of Staphylococci and to the International
Subcommittee for Streptococci and Pneumococci.
The summer of 1962
was a germinal one for Dr. Pakula and the University of Toronto. He attended the International Congress of Genetics in Montreal where he was approached by the Director of the
Connaught Medical Research Laboratories (CMRL) about the possibility of his
coming to that institution. And indeed, in 1964 Dr. Pakula was officially
invited by Dr. J. K. W. Ferguson to come to CMRL as a Visiting Fellow. This he
did and remained as a Research Associate at their Dufferin Division between
March, 1964 and June, 1966, at which time he was named Associate Professor of
the Department of Microbiology, then at the School of Hygiene at the University of Toronto. On July 1, 1967 Dr. Pakula became a Full Professor and five years later was named
Acting Department Chair. He retained that post until his retirement in July 1, 1975, then continued to teach
graduate courses on a part-time basis for seven years.
Dr. Pakula had a
wonderful sense of humour and a zest for life which made him a brilliant
raconteur and therefore an outstanding teacher at the podium and at the
laboratory bench. His love and respect for human beings shone forth at every
turn. Without even trying, he transmitted to his colleagues the ever-present
curiosity, joy and excitement in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding,
which are the hallmarks of a great scientist and a great humanitarian.
Throughout his career he lectured to students of fundamental science, medicine,
nursing and pharmacy. Dr. Pakula's most enduring legacy to the university was
his elevation of the Department of Microbiology to one which was fully engaged
in all the activities of an academic science-based department, which also was
to have an impact on medicine and health in all subdisciplines of microbiology.
He placed special emphasis on the intellectual endeavors of science and the
requirements of professorial teachers to inspire and encourage the development
of the next generation of Canadian scientists. Thus he devoted considerable
efforts to the supervision of graduate students.
To do him honour,
Dr. Pakula's family and his colleagues established the DR. ROMAN PAKULA
AWARD given annually to the best M.Sc. student in the Department of Medical
Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Toronto.
Roman Pakula Award
Microbiology Department, March 29, 1996
Presentation by son Andrew
Because of the time and place of his birth, my
father's life was profoundly effected by powerful and destructive forces of
history - war, hatred, racism, fascism and communism. His survival and even
more so his success as a scientist were very much against the odds. After his
graduate studies were interrupted by World War II, he became a soldier in the
army that defeated the Nazis under conditions of unimaginable hardship.
In Poland and in other communist countries after the war, the
sciences, particularly the biological sciences, were corrupted by the mad
ravings of Stalin and his henchmen trying to subvert truth in the name of totalitarian
ideology. The Lamarckian ideas about the inheritance of acquired
characteristics, expressed by Lysenko and others of his ilk, were the enforced
"truth". My father, unconcerned about the risks, spoke up against
such nonsense and supported fellow scientists who were victimized by the
regime. He believed that science without utmost integrity was not worth much.
He took enormous pleasure in his work as a teacher and
a researcher. I recall going to his lab as a child and being struck by the
sheer joy showing on his face. He was fond of saying - "I am so lucky to
be getting paid for my hobby". Although he was a hard taskmaster, his
students liked and admired him for his knowledge, his abilities as a teacher
and a story teller, and his great sense of humour. I am very grateful to him
for teaching me to be curious about the world.
More than anything, he was a scientist. He admired and
aspired to excellence and so he would have been very proud to be associated
with this award.
Zofia Pakula 1919 – 2010
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Last updated November 5th 2010
(originally posted in June 1999)