On 12 August 2023, Richard John Pinney, aged 80 years, of Tavistock, Devon.
Dr. Richard J Pinney, known to his friends and colleagues as Dick, devoted his career at the School of Pharmacy, University of London, to advancing our understanding of pharmaceutical microbiology. He inspired generations of undergraduate and postgraduate pharmacy students and, as his last PhD student, I feel privileged to have had Dick as my supervisor and friend.
Dick instilled in his PhD students the importance of critical thinking and intellectual curiosity; he encouraged us to challenge established norms, and provided an environment where we could develop and thrive as researchers. He was a gifted educator, and was unstinting in his mentorship. I remember vividly his visual demonstration of DNA supercoiling using the lead of an overhead projector, which ages us both! His writing and editorial skills were incomparable; attempting to pass these on to my own trainees often brings his advice to mind.
Dick’s research and publications spanned over 40 years, and focused on understanding the underlying mechanisms of antimicrobial action and resistance. His work on plasmids and R factors provided key insights into mechanisms of transferable antimicrobial resistance, alongside a career-long fascination with bacterial DNA repair mechanisms. Another significant contribution was his work in the field of post-antibiotic effect, which is key in the optimisation of antimicrobial dosing regimens. Dick was a keen collaborator, working with teams in other disciplines and institutions to derive new insights and research themes; one such collaboration was the use of flow cytometry which, at the time, was largely used for human cells, to describe bacterial response to antimicrobials. Towards the end of his career, Dick worked with dental colleagues to understand mechanisms of antiseptic action in oral biofilms.
In summary, Dick’s impact on the field of pharmaceutical microbiology, and education of thousands of pharmacists in the importance of antimicrobial resistance, at a time before this was in mainstream discourse, will ensure his lasting legacy.
After attaining his pharmacy degree and PhD from the School of Pharmacy, University of London (known as The Square), Dick spent his entire academic career (1967–1998) at the school, initially as assistant lecturer and latterly as senior lecturer in pharmaceutics. With his close colleagues, Mary Kelemen and John T Smith, he forged a formidable microbiology group renowned for its high-quality research and student-focused approach to teaching. He was a hardworking, kind and generous colleague; a team player, who provided great support and encouragement to all new members of staff.
Dick will be remembered as a gifted, conscientious and highly committed teacher. He taught throughout the pharmacy degree programme, most notably in microbiology and dispensing. For many years, Dick very effectively chaired the School of Pharmacy’s Curriculum Committee, ensuring the curriculum was fit for purpose, overseeing a major review and restructuring of the degree programme, and preparing timetables and exam papers. At meetings within the school, he was always well prepared and would often act as the school’s conscience, reminding staff of their responsibilities, particularly to the students and to the profession of pharmacy.
Outside of the school, Dick provided expert advice to many professional committees, including the Chemistry, Pharmacy and Standards subcommittee of the Committee of Safety of Medicines; the Dental and Surgical Materials Committee of the Medicines Commission, the British Pharmacopoeia Commission and the British Pharmaceutical Conference Committee.
Throughout his academic career, Dick was always immensely proud of Pharmacy, the Square and the then Pharmaceutical Society. He was a strong advocate for each. His contribution to pharmacy was recognised by a Fellowship of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in 1991.