ESPCR Honorary Member Prof. Jan Borovansky (1943-2015)
In Jan Borovansky, who died on 24th August 2015, the ESPCR – and indeed the entire Pigment Cell Community – lost a major figure and contributor to our melanic brotherhood. He made fundamental contributions to the body of knowledge that underpins our shared interest and endeavours and was an inspiring teacher and much-loved colleague.
Jan was very significant in the development of the biology of the melanosome and published many important papers devoted to the properties of these organelles. In particular, his researches touched on the metal-chelating properties of melanins and the importance of free radical mechanisms in melanocyte biochemistry and their significance to the development of malignancy.
He was a charismatic, intelligent, imaginative, encouraging, diplomatic, engaging, and loyal academic colleague. His gentle humour and modest demeanour endeared him to all his many friends. He had a well-deserved international reputation for scholarship and was an influential and admired pedagogue at Charles University, much loved by his students.
Jan Borovansky was born on 4th February 1943 into an academic family in wartime Czechoslovakia. His father was the distinguished Professor of Anatomy at Charles University, Prague, and Jan’s early years were steeped in the scholastic tradition which he emulated throughout his life. His mother was a well-known ophthalmologist. As a young boy Jan wished to become a diplomat, but his family environment predetermined his career. He qualified in Medicine from Charles University, Prague, in 1966 and successfully defended his PhD thesis in 1976. His early career was greatly constrained by the political situation in Czechoslovakia at the time, but he was fortunate in becoming the right hand of Professor Jiri Duchon and, in this capacity, made fundamental contributions to melanin biology. His work on the isolation of melanosomes and the delineation of their properties, especially in relation to metal binding, was fundamental to many aspects of melanin biochemistry that are encompassed within the status of knowledge we rely on today. He was elected a Fellow of the First Faculty of Medicine at Charles University in 1967 and thereafter was successively appointed to assistant professor (1970-1974), associate professor (1974-2004), and full professor (from 2004 onwards).
Professor MUDr. Jan Borovansky, CSc.
In many ways, Jan Borovansky was conducive in the advancement of European ambitions in the melanin field and his bold undertaking to host the 3rd European Workshop on Melanin Pigmentation (under the Chairmanship of Professor Duchon) in 1981, whilst Prague was still under Soviet domination, had many important sequelae – one of which was the resolution, adopted at the 6th EWMP, to found the ESPCR, and all the manifold political developments that emerged from this, ending in the formation of the IFPCS and the world-wide collaborative network that we now share.
Jan was an exceptional researcher with a deep knowledge of biochemistry, a topic that he taught with enthusiasm and brilliance. He was much in demand as a lecturer for the clarity of his presentation, and his enthusiastic exposition of the functional aspects of melanosome structure, particularly with regard to free radical reactions, inspired much new research in the field.
Jan Borovansky was Professor of Medical Biochemistry at Charles University, a member of the Senate of the University, and served with distinction as Editor and was on the Editorial Boards of many Journals. He was active in the encouragement of cooperative ventures and was a member of the Organising Committees of many scientific meetings. Under the auspices of the British Council scholarship scheme he spent several periods at University College London where he was a Visiting Professor in the Department of Biochemical Pathology and was appointed an Honorary Research Fellow of UCL in 1984.
Jan was a founder member of the ESPCR and was the Organiser of the 8th ESPCR Annual meeting in Prague in 1998. He served on the Council of the ESPCR between 1990 and 1998 and as a member of the Editorial Board of Pigment Cell Research from 1995 to 1999. He was a member of the Editorial Board of the ESPCR Bulletin from 1999 to 2012 and was appointed to Honorary Membership of the ESPCR in 2010. He was a prominent and much-loved member of the Quintox Group, and was an elected Fellow of the Totteridge Institute for Advanced Studies.
Jan struggled for many years with chronic renal failure and was helped enormously by a successful renal transplant in 2001. However, in recent months he was afflicted by a malignancy that proved resistant to energetic therapy. He was courageous and optimistically philosophical to the end.
He was a fine man, an imaginative and careful scientist, a pillar of the pigment cell community, and, above all, a wonderful, loyal, and irreplaceable friend.
He is survived by his wife Jana, two children, Jitka and Jan, and four grandchildren.
Patrick Riley, 26 August 2015
Jan Borovansky (right) with Patrick Riley, at the 14th ESPCR meeting in Bari (Italy), in 2007
I am deeply saddened to hear about the loss of Professor Borovansky. I will always remember his smile and gentle demeanor. His contributions to our field of pigment cell research are enormous. I will miss meeting him at IPCC meetings. My condolences to his family, his friends, and to the IFPCS community.
I am a relative late-comer to PASPCR, but I did have the chance to meet Prof. Borovansky at the international conference some years ago. He was a gentleman and a scholar!
I will miss him.
The entire ESPCR and IFPCS families are saddened with the loss of Prof. Jan Borovansky. I met him several times at ESPCR and IPCC meetings and I could always learn from him. His comments and remarks will be missed in our pigment cell conferences. We will remember him in our ESPCR meeting in Edinburgh, due in two weeks. My most sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
Jan and I were close friends and we spent much time together at meetings. I will miss him.
What sad news this is. Truly a great and much-loved member of our pigment cell research community has passed. My condolences to his family, and to his close colleagues, including Stan Pavel and Pat Riley.
Caroline Le Poole
It is the deep sadness to hear that Prof. Jan Borovansky passed away. Jan and me were friends and colleagues at the same University in Prague for a very long time. My condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and pigment cell researchers.
I am so sorry.
I met Prof. Jan Borovansky at a ESPCR meeting in Amsterdam the first time many any years ago and I will always remember him as a gentleman and a brilliant scientist
Indeed a very sad news. I had known Jan personally for almost 35 years. I remember him as a friendly, warm person and a great scientist, who made significant contributions to melanosome biology and melanin biochemistry. This is a huge loss to melanin research.
I have similar sentiments and he was a major reason that I spent a lot of time I in Prague pre 1989 helping them keep science alive
It is very sad. My heart felt condolences goes to his family and friends
I had the opportunity of meeting Borovansky at scientific conferences and I was impressed by this enthusiasm, and by his encyclopaedic knowledge of the pigmentation field.
A sad loss indeed.
I am saddened with Jan’s passing. I had many opportunities to appreciate his scientific capabilities and extreme kindness. I have very enjoyable memories of his participation at the ESPCR meeting in Rome that I will cherish.
It is with great sadness to hear that Professor Jan Borovansky passed away. I have personally known him since early 1980 when I and my wife visited Late Professor Dushane, another pioneer of pigment cell research in Charles Univeristy, Praha. During this visit, Dr. Dushane introduced me Professor Borovansky as his future successor. One of great contributions of Professor Borobansky to pigment cell reaseach is to introduce the importance of metals in melanosomes. He was kind enough to visit Sapporo when I organized IPCC in 1988.
May his soul rest in peace! And may his spirit always live!
Kowichi Jimbow, MD, PhD, FRCPC
I am also saddened with Jan’s passing. I had many opportunities to appreciate his scientific capabilities and extreme kindness. I have very enjoyable memories meeting him on numerous scientific conferences where we discussed science and politics or politics and science, depending what was more exciting. He was also a friend of my mentor Dr Andrzej Bomirski.
This is a big loss for Pigment Cell Community
I think to Jan when playing a CD of traditional Christmas music from Bohemia he gave me at the occasion of the IPCC in Bordeaux. My grandchildren love the this nice set of XVIIIth century pieces with drums and wind instruments which give an atmosphere of fairy happiness. We met at several pigment cell societies and unfortunately I missed the Prague meeting. He will be remembered both for his kindness and mentoring achievements. Please transmit my sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Still in shock over Jan Borovansky’s death. We email often and the last email I received 2 months ago, he was very pleased about the results he was getting with the chemo. He was very optimistic. I have known him for a long time (since 1985) and I would send him items (for example,color film) that he could not get in stores while the Communists ruled. I also did a 6 month sabbatical with him in 2004. We worked in his lab and then he would take my wife and I all around to see the country. As those of you that knew him, he was a wonderful person to be around. He had a very sly since of humor. He was very proud of his Czech Republic. My wife and I were planning to go to Prague to see him this Fall. I truly regret we waited too long to go. He will be greatly missed. Prayers for him, his wife Jana, daughter Jitka and son Jan (Honsig).
I am very sad about the Jan Borovansky passing.I had met Jan for many ESPCR meetings. He was a friendly person and always spoke about his work with modesty. I remember particularly of the 8th meeting of ESPCR organized in 1998 in Prague by Jan and Matous in honour of the 650th anniversary of the “Charles University”. The introductory lecture was done by his mentor Jiri Duchon on “Charles University and pigment cell research”. I had the opportunity to collect some lectures of this meeting as guest editor in a special issue of “Cellular and Molecular Biology” 1999, vol.45, N°7, 877-1129.
What sad news to hear that Jan Borovansky has passed away. He was a lovely man and will be missed by so many.