Remembering Prof. Kåre Larsson

2018-03-26

Vale.  Kåre Larsson 27-2-1937/25-3-2018

The book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, by James Agee and Walker Evans is a profound account of hardship endured by cotton-picking sharecroppers in Alabama during the Depression.

The title comes from Eccesiasticus 44:1:  “Let us now praise famous men and their forefathers before them”.

These words seem apposite for an encomium for Kåre.

They capture a part of his life and trials, his humility, his legendary generosity and spirit.

On fame we know that no man’s work can be truly judged until decades after it appears. Kåre’s seminal contributions first began to appear decades ago.  His discovery of, and insistence of the importance of bicontinuous phases, non-euclidean geometries in lipids was as dramatic a  revolution in biology as it was in mathematics. This was a conceptual leap of profound importance that will stand.

The revolution, marked by the book The Language of Shape, continues.1

Many of his discoveries were put to good use in medicine by the company, Camurus AB, that he founded with Gunnar Sandberg. It continues to prosper and to do good works.

He continued to work and to make seminal contributions on lipids in physiology for twenty years after his 60th anniversary Festshrift when he became ill, supposedly terminally.2 Characteristically, his personal financial share of Camurus was donated to a new endeavour to foster applied and fundamental lipid science: the Camurus Lipid Research Foundation. He remained active until the end.  

Two major papers were published with us a few months before his death.3,4

In a short autobiography written recently, Kåre recounted his astonishing trajectory, from early childhood in the forests and lakes of west Norrland (in northern Sweden), via Uppsala, Gothenburg and Stockholm to founding Professor of Food Technology at Lund University. Though by nature self effacing, he was determined to transcend his circumstances. Aged just 11, he featured in the local newspaper, thanks to his prize-winning essay, Why I want to be an inventor. That dream was fulfilled aplenty in later years, with a swag of patents, from cubosomes, to probiotics. On the way he accrued deep knowledge of medicine, biology, crystallography and computing. He was a member of a stellar generation of Scandinavian structural scientists, including his great friends Sten Andersson, Krister Fontell and Sixten Abrahamsson, figures without peer today. His quiet, steady presence was immeasurably more valued to us than louder colleagues. For Kåre’s judgement, often delivered with such reserve that one had to force it out, was unerringly insightful and knowledgeable.

We will miss him, but celebrate an exemplary life.

27/3/2018

Stephen Hyde and Barry Ninham, Canberra  

Maura Monduzzi, Cagliari

Pierandrea Lo Nostro,  Firenze

 

  1. S. T. Hyde, S. Andersson, K. Larsson, S. Lidin, T. Landh, Z. Blum, B.W. Ninham. The Language of Shape. The Role of Curvature in Condensed Matter: Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Elsevier, Science B.V. Amsterdam, 1997, ISBN: 0 444 81538 4.
  2. The colloid science of lipids: Kåre Larsson Festschrift, in: B. Lindman, B.W.Ninham (Eds.), Progr. Coll. Polymer Sci. 1998, 108.
  3. B.W. Ninham, K. Larsson, P. Lo Nostro. Colloids Surf. B Biointerfaces 2017, 152, 326–338. DOI: 10.1016/j.colsurfb.2017.01.022.
  4. B.W. Ninham, K. Larsson, P. Lo Nostro. Colloids Surf. B Biointerfaces 2017, 159, 394-404. DOI: 10.1016/j.colsurfb.2017.07.090.