Colin RAPER (1936 - 2023)

Professor of Pharmacology, Victorian College of Pharmacy (1973 - 1996)

Colin Raper

Professor Colin Raper, who has died aged 86, was a man who had no conflict with being a staunch defender of academic rigour, whilst championing a common sense approach. He managed to do both uncommonly well.

As Head of Department of the School of Pharmacology, Raper provided strong and effective leadership to a close-knit community of academics, support staff and students. Later, as Associate Dean (Graduate Studies), he set and maintained the highest standards for the College’s graduate programmes. He played a major role in establishing the Honours programme and was instrumental in having the new titles, Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Science and Master of Pharmaceutical Science, replace the BPharm (Hons) and MPharm degree nomenclature.

Professor Raper came to Monash in 1992 when the Victorian College of Pharmacy in Parkville merged with the University as part of the late Vice-Chancellor Mal Logan’s expansive vision. He remained as Professor of Pharmacology and Head of the Department (retitled the Department of Pharmaceutical Biology and Pharmacology in 1995) for the duration of his tenure. Under his leadership the School became vigorous and productive and was hailed as an example to all similar schools and departments in English-speaking countries.

Throughout his career, Raper remained active in research, teaching and scientific publishing. His particular interests were in the field of skeletal muscle pharmacology and autonomic pharmacology, as well as toxicology. He was known for being an inspiring lecturer and a thoroughly meticulous supervisor of graduate research students.

Professor Raper was born in England in the spring of 1936 in the picturesque London suburb of Isleworth. Upon graduating from the local grammar school, he completed two years of National Service in the RAF and undertook a variety of short-term jobs before enrolling at the School of Pharmacy at the University of London in 1957.

He graduated with a B.Pharm in 1960 (being named top student for pharmacology part 1 and part 2) and was granted a Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain Scholarship for his PhD studies, which he completed whilst working as an assistant lecturer at the university.

Afterwards he moved to the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Melbourne before joining the Victorian College of Pharmacy in 1973 as Dean (Pharmacology) and Kansas Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the College’s inter-search programme.

Professor Raper’s long-standing interest in the harmful effects of substances stemmed from his position as a toxicological consultant with the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Pesticide and Agricultural Chemicals Committee. Over the course of his career he gave many invited international lectures on the subject; much in demand due to a small gene pool of knowledge in the area of regulatory toxicology. He was a consultant to Sigma Pty Ltd and ICI (Australia).

As a member of numerous College committees including the Graduate Studies Committee which he chaired, he was known as the voice of reason. Colleagues described him as having both warmth and wit, and was wary of artifice in any guise. He impatiently dismissed the notion of the academic being sealed away in an ivory tower, believing that faculty staff had a duty to offer service to the general community. He was also an appreciator of the fine arts and music, being an accomplished pianist, and he and his partner, Jude, were described as delightful hosts.

Professor Raper was a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (now the Royal Pharmaceutical Society) and the British Pharmacological Society as well as the Australian Physiological and Pharmacological Society (APPS). In 1977 he was President of the Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists (ASCEP).

He held memberships of several editorial boards of Scientific Journals including the Australian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy and the Journal of Pharmacological Methods. In 1996, upon taking up voluntary retirement, he was appointed Emeritus Professor. The ripple effect of his work continues to contribute to new frontiers in the pharmaceutical industry.

Colin Raper was born on 22 May 1936. He died on 15 February 2023.

Edited version of article published 6 March 2023.

Image courtesy of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University.