John Bevan, one of the pioneers of vascular pharmacology, passed away on February 14, 2007, following an illness that he bore valiantly. John had a dedicated scientific career, building an international reputation that spanned a half-century. His experimental studies of the vascular system encompassed myriad aspects of the human and animal vascular networks and the mechanisms that control them. He took a broad-spectrum approach, integrative in nature, to examine neurogenic, developmental, hemodynamic, humoral, and therapeutic aspects.
John, born in 1930, grew up in Britain and, following a degree in pharmacology and physiology, he did his medical training at the University of London, receiving his MD and other medical qualifications in 1953, followed by medical duty in the Royal Air Force. During their medical studies, John and his wife Rosemary developed their lifelong fascination for science. Britain, still a country of austerity after World War II, offered limited research possibilities. John was tempted “across the pond” to UCLA, where he was offered a faculty position in 1957. This gave him the opportunity he needed, and he began working on the morphological and pharmacological characterization of pulmonary arterial nerve endings. He rose to the rank of full professor in 1967.
John's experiments using classical methods to examine large vessels provided him with numerous insights, but he was nevertheless one of the first to recognize that an understanding of cardiovascular control required the investigation of isolated small vessels. At that time, the idea of doing in vitro experiments on vessels almost too small to see appeared impossible. In 1972 John, together with John Osher, showed that it was feasible to mount such vessels in a myograph, allowing isometric responses to be obtained. This myograph proved to be the prototype for the later development of myography. Vermont became one of the centers of myography, and perhaps for this reason in 1983, after 25 years in California, John and Rosemary accepted appointments to the University of Vermont, where John became chair of the Department of Pharmacology. John played a major role in further developing the myograph technique, and established the Vermont Center for Vascular Research. His interests broadened to studies of myogenic tone, the vasoactive effects of flow, the endothelium, and the control of the human brain circulation.
An important theme of John's work was to extend the extensive experimental knowledge of blood vessels to the study of isolated human blood vessels. To this end, he and Rosemary established the Totman Laboratory for Human Cerebrovascular Research, which they directed until John retired from the Department of Pharmacology and became Emeritus. John's work is recorded in more than 400 articles and book chapters. At the time of his death, John was working on a book treating the cerebrovascular circulation as it was seen from ancient times to the present.
Apart from his laboratory interests, John used his organizational skills to play a major international role in establishing the field of vascular pharmacology. John held the first Vascular Neuroeffector Mechanism Symposium in 1970, a symposium series that has continued regularly ever since. In 1975 he took over the editorship of Blood Vessels (now the Journal of Vascular Research) and with his love of literary and scientific precision succeeded in making this a respected journal; indeed, for many, it is the leading journal in the field.
Although the scientific attractions of UVM weighed heavily, John and Rosemary were surely attracted by the natural delights of Vermont, where they decided to set up house on the slopes of Mount Philo, with its magnificent views of Lake Champlain. He often explored its shores in his sailboat. This location was an added incentive for his 4 children and their families to visit. John was an avid hiker here and abroad and enjoyed traveling to maintain long-term contacts with his scientific colleagues. Above all, he was a wonderful human being. It was a privilege to know him. He will be sorely missed and never forgotten.