OBITUARY by Prof. G. Prota

Bengt Larsson: A Tribute to a Friend


As Past President of the European Society for Pigment Cell Research and of the International Federation of Pigment Cell Societies, but first of all as an old friend of Bengt Larsson, I was sincerely urged to write these few words to commemorate through our Bulletin one of the dearest colleagues of the pigment cell community, whose sudden death left us astonished and with an unbelievable sense of loss. All too often, obituaries are laden with rhetoric and verbous sentences of condolence: no one less than Bengt, I am sure, would have liked this. His typical Anglosaxon style, with a peculiar sense of humour, his calm and relaxing appearance, totally devoid of exibitionism and exaggerations, gained him widespread appreciation among his colleagues. Adjectives like reserved, gentle, elegant, persuasive, serious could hardly be omitted in descriptions of his human profile and personal traits, in spite of his internationally recognized scientific competence and leading positions within the ESPCR and IFPCS. Bengt was one of the pillars of the international pigment cell family. I met him when he was still a student, and since then he has always been an aficionado of our workshops and meetings. In 1989 he took the responsibility of organizing the highly successful 2nd ESPCR meeting, after which he became increasingly implicated in the various affairs of the ESPCR, as member of the Council, as the Secretary, during my tenure as President, and then as the President. When he was nominated for this position, I was sure that the Society would have greatly benefited from his wisdom and harmonious personality, especially after years of turbulence. And, indeed, he contributed greatly to the success of the ESPCR and shared our pride in seeing its prolific growth in membership and quality of science. Bengt was the man who made everything easy: both in the running of the Society and in research. We had several opportunities to exchange views and ideas about delicate or troubling matters, and I don't remember I ever saw him disappointed or angry at anything. His phylosophy was marked by a basically optimistic attitude as, in his view, questions could be easily settled with a little of common sense.

A few words need to be spent about his scientific achievements. Bengt Larsson has tightly bound his name to the field of thiouracil and thioureylene melanoma seekers. He was internationally recognized for a number of outstanding contributions toward the mechanisms of action of melanin affinic drugs, through a very competent use of whole body autoradiographic techniques, and his interests had shifted very recently toward the drug binding properties of pheomelanins. Bengt is dearly missed by all of us who had the fortune to meet him personally. It will be hard for us to attend the next Pigment Cell Conferences and meetings and not to have him presenting his results or chairing scientific sessions, or telling anecdotes on the occasion of social events. Like his many scientific papers will provide a permanent record of his outstanding contributions to melanoma research, his pictures will leave vivid memories of a tall, slim gentleman.