A tribute to Professor Geoffrey Raisman

A tribute to Professor Geoffrey Raisman: A wonderful man with a brilliant brain

We are very sorry to hear the news that our dear friend Professor Geoffrey Raisman FRS has sadly passed away. All our thoughts are with his family at this time and we will miss him enormously.

I first became aware of Geoffrey at the start of 2004, following an accident that left my son Dan with a broken neck whilst swimming on Bondi Beach in Australia.

We then set up the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation (nsif), a charity dedicated to finding a cure for spinal injury. My dream was then, and remains, to see Dan walk again. We raised a significant amount of money and needed to find someone in the research field to support. It was then that I came across Geoffrey who, in 2005, was awarded the Reeve-Irvine Medal for critical contributions to promoting repair of the damaged spinal cord and recovery of function. Together with Professor Ying Li and Dr Daqing Li, the UCL team has shown that transplantation of olfactory ensheathing cells into spinal cord injuries in laboratory models results in regeneration of severed nerve fibres and restoration of function.

I remember my first meeting with him; how he impressed me, his level of humility and above everything else two things stood out. Firstly, he absolutely believed that paralysis was curable. He always said it will not be science alone, it will be science and surgery together under the right conditions that will make this possible. He was right on both counts. Secondly, he made complex science easy to understand. This was very important to me and a unique gift.

Geoffrey introduced me to Dr Pawel Tabakov a brilliant Polish surgeon, and at the first meeting I became very excited by their collaboration. I was struck by the belief of the two experts that a cure was possible. They had a plan, which I am pleased to say worked with staggering results.

Meeting Geoffrey was a huge turning point for nsif. He was a world-class neuroscientist, a pioneer in the field of spinal cord injury, a man of great integrity and a friend. I am enormously grateful for his commitment and dedication to research over the years.

I have always described Geoffrey as my unsung hero. He helped to turn my utter devastation from Dan’s injury into hope. It is thanks to the work of his team at UCL that we now all have hope for the future. For this I am, and will always be, eternally grateful.

I find these words comforting at this difficult time:

If I should die, and leave you here awhile,
Be not like others sore undone, who keep
Long vigils by the silent dust and weep.
For my sake, turn again to life, and smile,
Nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do
Something to comfort weaker hearts than thine.
Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine,
And I, perchance, may therein comfort you!

-Turn Again To Life, A. Price Hughes & Mary Lee Hall

David Nicholls

Some of our partners include