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Professor John Garrett

We are sorry to inform you of the death of Professor John Garrett, who was a longtime supporter of the British Society for Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology from when it was the Oral Pathology Club and was President in 1983-84.


Professor Garrett graduated in dentistry in 1949, was an active parachutist in the Airborne Field Ambulance of the Royal Army Dental Corps from 1950 to 1952, and graduated in medicine in 1959 at King's College Hospital. He won the physiology scholarship in the preclinical course to study for a BSc, which involved applying a newly developed histochemical technique to salivary glands. The unexpected discovery that this technique revealed the parasympathetic nerves in the glands led to a publication in Nature, and he never looked back. Knowledge about the innervation of salivary glands was almost nonexistent and so he explored the innervation patterns using histochemistry and electronmicroscopy, for which he was awarded a PhD in 1965. He realized that the next step was to investigate the nerve-mediated functions of the glands, and this was explored in a long and fruitful collaboration with Professor Nils Emmelin at the Institute of Physiology, Lund, Sweden.


Professor Garrett's enthusiasm for research, particularly experimental reasearch, led to continuing collaborations with many colleagues at home and abroad, and experimental research became a principal activity in the Department of Oral Pathology that he established in 1968 at King's College Hospital Dental School. The main territory of investigation was the salivary glands in health and disease, although there were excursions into Hirschprung's disease of the large bowel, dental amalgam and odontogenic cysts. John supervised 1 MS and 13 PhD students, and published over 400 articles.

Professor Garrett Obituary photo DSC_383

Professor Garrett at his microscope in 1973 at King's College Hospital Dental School. This photograph originally appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Microscopical Society 9, 77 (1974) and is reproduced with kind permission of the Royal Microscopical Society.

He was a member of many learned societies and was President of the Salivary Research Group of the International Association for Dental Research in 1977-1978, the Royal Microscopical Society in 1980-1982, the British Society for Oral Pathology in 1983-1984, the International Federation of Societies for Histochemistry and Cytochemistry in 1988-1992, and the Osler Club of London in 1992-1993. He organized many international scientific meetings and symposiums at home and abroad, was a member of the editorial boards of learned journals, and edited textbooks on secretory processes.


Recognition for his unique, outstanding and sustained contribution to research and teaching includes the Isaac Schour Memorial Award of the IADR in 1978, Salivary Researcher of the Year of the IADR in 2000, the Salivary Research Award of the IADR in 2002, and the degrees of Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Lund, Sweden, in 1985 and of the Semmelweis Medical University, Budapest, Hungary, in 2007.


Professor Garrett was an exceptional pathologist and physiologist with an enthusiastic, forthright, open approach, and his passing may be considered to be the ending of an epoch.

Written by John Harrison

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