In Memoriam – John Farley


Dr. John Farley passed away November 10 at the age of 79. John joined Dalhousie’s Biology Department as an Assistant Professor in 1964. Although trained as a parasitologist, and a teacher of invertebrate biology, John took a sabbatical leave at Harvard University in 1970-71 where he began his transformation into a leading historian of science. John turned to teaching the history of science and the history of medicine in classes cross-listed in Biology, History, Medicine, and at King?s College.

His first book The Spontaneous Generation Controversy from Descartes to Oparin, published in 1977, remains the best treatment of what John liked to call ?Life Without Parents.? His second book, Gametes and Spores: Ideas about Sexual Reproduction, 1750-1914, published in 1982, contained important insights for biologists and historians into how our approach to and understanding of reproduction has changed over time. Bilharzia: A History of Imperial Tropical Medicine was published in 1991.

In 1995 John took early retirement to concentrate on writing and on Masters swimming (but continued to teach). From his ?retirement? two further books emerged: A History of the International Health Division of Rockefeller Foundation (2003) and a biography of the Canadian Brock Chisholm (Brock Chisholm, the World Health Organization & the Cold War, 2008). No one-sided academic, John held provincial, national and international Masters Swim records in various age ranges. When in the 70-74 age group and participating in the National swim meet, John set provincial records in the 100 and 200m freestyle, the 50 and 100m breaststroke and the 100 and 200m individual medley. John, you were an example to us all in so many ways and are sorely missed.

John’s obituary can be found at the Chronicle Herald’s website.