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Roy H Steinberg died peacefully on 26 July 1997 at his home after a four year battle with multiple myeloma. The ophthalmic community has lost a good friend and ally. He was one of a breed of visual scientists who was prepared to spend the time, and had the patience, to communicate intelligibly with clinicians. These qualities, in someone who was pre-eminent in science and who was without prejudice, are uncommon. Roy had the desire to bring the advances in science into the clinical forum, which was helped by being medically qualified.
This motivation is exemplified by his latest work with Matt LaVail. Initially, it was shown that a variety of growth factors slowed retinal photoreceptor cell loss in the RCS rat. Subsequently, they demonstrated retinal rescue in light damage, and in rodents with different genetically determined retinal dystrophies. The ultimate goal is the development of a form of treatment for inherited retinal degeneration in humans. Of all the forms of potential therapy for these disorders, the use of growth factors seems to be the easiest to incorporate into clinical practice. During this work Roy always appreciated the sense of urgency that existed in the patient community, and yet was scrupulous in the maintenance of scientific discipline. His determination is illustrated by his attendance at the laboratory until a few days before his death.
Roy was brought up in New York and went to college in New York and Michigan, before going to medical school at New York Medical College. Following an internship at Massachusetts Memorial Hospital, he acquired a formal training in research with Herbert Jasper at the Montreal Neurological Institute. We should all be grateful that he decided to specialise in the visual system. He continued his research during military service at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute in Pensacola, Florida, and was subsequently appointed to the University of California, San Francisco where he spent the remainder of his working life.
Roy won the highest respect and reputation for his scientific work, gaining numerous accolades including the Friedenwald award in 1987. Most recently, he and Matt LaVail received jointly the Moran prize from the University of Utah, which was presented at a very touching ceremony at Roy’s house shortly before his death. Roy had many outside interests, including gardening, and had a passion for sport, following San Francisco baseball closely. He even tried to fathom out rugby during one of his many visits to the UK. Recently, he attended the Oxford Congress where his ability to communicate with clinicians was well demonstrated.
Roy will be remembered for his scientific achievements, which may influence the practice of clinical ophthalmology in the foreseeable future, but most of all as a generous and totally honest colleague. Roy will be sorely missed by his friends and coworkers, who enjoyed walks with him in Golden Gate Park, and drank phenomenal quantities of strong coffee on the sidewalks of San Francisco.
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