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John Paul passed away on November 13, 2013

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  • John Paul passed away on November 13, 2013

    Dear Colleagues,

    I receive this sad news today from Phil Rowe. Please see his message below.

    Ton van den Bogert
    Biomch-L moderator

    Dear Colleagues

    It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of Prof John Paul.

    He died this morning, peacefully in the company of his family. As you will all know, John was one of the founders of biomechanics and the department of Biomedical Engineering here at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. He played a leading role in establishing Bioengineering at Strathclyde as a global centre of excellence. He was also a lifelong contributor to ISB as a past president and in his relationship to ISB standards work.

    I am sure that those who worked with John will feel this loss personally and will recognise the debt we own to John in respect of his life-time of achievements and the passion and energy he had for biomechanics , orthopaedics, movement science, rehabilitation and bioengineering. He will be greatly missed by us all.

    Funeral details are not yet known but we are expecting that it will be planned for the end of next week. As soon as we receive further information we will let people know.

    Obviously most of you will not be able to attend the funeral but we would be happy to forward messages of condolence to his family should you wish us to do so on your behalf. Please send them to A M Baran our departmental secretary at and marked “in memoriam of Prof Paul”. You can also send them to me if you prefer



    Professor Philip Rowe
    Professor of Rehabilitation Science
    Bioengineering Unit, University of Strathclyde
    Wolfson Centre, 106 Rotten Row, Glasgow G4 ONW, Scotland UK.

  • #2
    Re: John Paul passed away on November 13, 2013

    As moderator of Biomch-L, I encourage everyone to post in this thread if they want to share their personal memories.

    John Paul was a former president of ISB and this is something he and I had in common. John was actually the first person I talked to on the first day of the first ISB congress I attended. He was in line behind me for the barbecue on a Sunday evening in Amsterdam (1987), and he said "hello, I am John Paul". He also joked about the pope being the second John Paul. It was not until later that I learned that John was one of the pioneers in mechanical analysis of joint loading, and its application to joint replacement. His papers from the mid-1960s are still impressive and a pleasure to read.

    I have heard similar stories from others. John obviously touched many of our lives and especially reached out to the younger generation. Until not long ago, he attended every ISB congress.

    John Paul cared enough about the field of biomechanics that he wrote 33 letters to the editor during his career, commenting on articles that he read or on controversial issues. The last was in 2010. For the same reason he also participated in ISB standardization work as mentioned by Phil above. This is truly an inspiration. Too often we avoid discussing work by others, or terminology conventions, because we are too focused on our own work. I distinctly remember one letter by John from 1978, titled "torques produce torsion". It's not listed in Pubmed so I suspect that I have even underestimated his letter output. In that letter, he argued for using the term "joint moment" rather than "joint torque" to represent the effect of muscles on joint rotations. And the field has overwhelmingly followed his recommendation. Years later, I submitted my very first manuscript to Journal of Biomechanics, and the reviewer was adamant that I remove the word "torque". So I suspect that John Paul reviewed (and eventually accepted) my very first publication. These days, I lean again towards the term "joint torque" when working on motorized prosthetic limbs, because motors produce torque, but every time I do that, I still hear John telling me not to.

    He will be missed.

    Ton van den Bogert
    Antonie J. (Ton) van den Bogert
    Parker-Hannifin Endowed Chair in Human Motion and Control
    Department of Mechanical Engineering
    Cleveland State University


    • #3
      Re: John Paul passed away on November 13, 2013

      I was saddened to read of the passing of John Paul. He made significant contributions to biomechanics in so many ways. Here are just a few of his many accomplishments: his works on joint loads represent important milestones in the field, he mentored doctoral students who went on to make important contributions, he worked on a number of standards committees, and he held leadership roles within the ISB and other societies. As Ton has pointed out, his many letters to the editor tried to keep us all on the correct track.

      My personal recollections of Prof. Paul include editing my doctoral thesis to change torque to moment after I was told he would be my external examiner, as I had read his 1978 letter to the editor in Journal of Biomechanics propounding the use of moment instead of torque. After my exam he gave me several pages of meticulous notes, which rather than being corrections were useful comments – I still have those notes. Finally when I was attending the ISB Congress in Perth (1991), I felt very much part of the ISB “family” when the first person I met was Prof. Paul, then the Past-President, who greeted me with a warm handshake. The ISB Congress will be in the UK for the first time when his old Department hosts the Congress in Glasgow in 2015; it is a great shame that he did not live to witness this.

      We are all the poorer for his passing.

      John H. Challis, Ph.D.
      President – International Society of Biomechanics
      Biomechanics Lab
      Penn State University
      University Park
      PA 16802


      • #4
        Re: John Paul passed away on November 13, 2013

        Yes, sad to hear. Amongst the Strathclyde fraternity (some say mafia), JPP was always referred to simply as "Prof." - perhaps the only instance of this that I know. For much of his career he was the only professor in the Wolfson building, but even when there were others, everyone knew who you meant when you said "Prof.". He was a giant in biomechanics, being the first to estimate hip joint forces during gait and other everyday activities. I always wondered if his interest was stimulated by his own congenital dislocation, and he ended up having a total hip replacement himself. His work was timely because it followed John Charnley's first successful hip joint replacement, and began after a visit to Glasgow by Inman's Berkeley team. Notable developments were the 3D Vicon motion analysis system, designed by Prof. Paul with his PhD students, Mick Jarrett and Brian Andrews (it was subsequently acquired by Oxford Metrics). I recall Prof weighing my own slim PhD thesis in his hand and remarking that "it widnae pass the scales test". His office was always a mountain of theses, books and papers, yet he seemed always to know where everything was. As others have noted, he was a stickler for units, spelling etc., and I think all of us who were his student have inherited that pedantry. He was a true pioneer, and along with the death of David Winter just a few years ago it seems like a great epoque has passed.


        • #5
          Re: John Paul passed away on November 13, 2013

          I met John Paul for the first time during a Symposium on Biolocomotion on April 1989 in Formia, Italy. His lecture and thought-provoking remarks on knee prosthesis inspired me ever since. Periodically after many conferences, I had an opportunity to witnessing John’s exceptional mentorship with his former students and as he brought synergy among people in the field of orthopedic biomechanics. He will be truly missed.

          It was a pleasure to know John Paul.

          Krystyna Gielo-Perczak
          Biomch-L Co-moderator

          Biomedical Engineering Department
          University of Connecticut
          Storrs, CT 06269


          • #6
            Re: John Paul passed away on November 13, 2013

            John Paul was a giant among the biomechanics community.

            I met John on my arrival in the Bioengineering in Sept 1984, when he first interviewed me. I was immediately struck by his uprightness, he was upright in character and manners. Together with Bob Kennedi provided the early leadership that the unit needed to aspire to the standards of international excellence that we know of.

            He was influential (always for the better) in 3 instances in my life and I will never forget that. He really felt for young upcoming researchers and was really a true father figure in practice and in spirit.

            Visiting the Scottish parliament lately I noticed the 4 words around the mace: Wisdom, Justice, Integrity, Compassion. JP had them all, in particular integrity. He was a man of unparalleled integrity and sense of justice.

            To these four virtues, I would add a fifth, one that I feel is missing from the mace in Holyrood: the word is vision. And JP had this in abundance too. This was what made him a true leader in his life and a pioneering leader in our field.

            There are great things that can be said about him. But I will only say this, one that I know would make his heart feel warm. He was one of the best sons of Scotland.

            Rest in peace JP

            Peter Zioupos PhD DSc FIPEM CSCi MESB
            Vice-President European Society of Biomechanics,
            Biomechanics Laboratories, Centre for Musculoskeletal and Medicolegal Research,
            Dept Engineering & Applied Science, Cranfield University, Shrivenham SN6 8LA, UK
            tel:+44(0)1793-785932; fax:+44(0)1793-783076; email:


            • #7
              Re: John Paul passed away on November 13, 2013

              Like many people in biomechanics I was very saddened on hearing about Prof John Pauls passing away.

              Prof John Paul touched and inspired many life's, especially those in biomechanics. I remember as a young PhD student working away in Sydney, when the lab was visited by John Paul. His reputation went before him, but he was a fatherly figure and so very encouraging of the work I was doing. John Paul was an external examiner for my PhD, and which as others wrote, he gave pages of detailed written discussion, but these again these were always supportive. John Paul also wrote one his famed editorials on my first paper in the Journal of Biomechanics and I was terrified; until I finally read it (in those days you had to walk to the library to read the latest journal) and it was again supportive, with some personal recollections of his similar laboratory experiences and other issues that stemmed from the work.

              John Paul was one of the founders of the ISB and the field of of biomechanics. His pioneering work on estimating hip joint contact forces and understanding the action of muscles inspired all my research career; he really did put "neuromusuloskeletal" into biomechanics. John Paul never forgot anyone, and always remembered and spoke to me at all the ISB meetings.

              Prof John Paul will be missed by many, but he leaves a lasting legacy in biomechanics. More importantly he will be remembered as a true Scotish gentleman.


              David Lloyd, PhD
              Director and Professor, Centre for Musculoskeletal Research,
              Griffith Health Institute
              Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, QLD, 4222, Australia


              • #8
                Re: John Paul passed away on November 13, 2013

                Prof Paul’s funeral will be held at St Paul's Church, Milngavie, Glasgow this Friday 22nd at 12.45 pm. It will be followed by refreshments at the Strathblane Country Club a couple of miles up the road.

                Prof Paul’s family extend a warm invitation to all who knew John and who would like to attend.


                • #9
                  Re: John Paul passed away on November 13, 2013

                  It was very sad to read Phil’s and Ton’s messages that Prof. John Paul passed away and, unfortunately, I was not able to attend his funeral yesterday and give my condolences to his family.

                  I did not have the privilege to be taught by or work with Prof. Paul but like all the other colleagues posting their tributes here, it was a pleasure knowing him.

                  I first met Prof. Paul in the early 90’s at Liverpool University when he came to examine my PhD thesis on knee joint biomechanics and I still remember him as one of the kindest, polite and at the same time thorough and critical scientists I have ever met. I was very anxious, like every PhD student before their viva, but knowing that one of the world’s authorities in biomechanics was going to examine my work in detail was particularly daunting and I couldn’t understand why he brought a plastic ruler with his copy of my thesis on the table. One of his first statements was “I really enjoyed reading your thesis…” (and, momentarily, all the anxiety went away hearing such a remark about my work from one of the most eminent scientists in biomechanics,) “…but I would like to discuss some points in detail with you.” He started with the term “torque” that was used throughout my thesis because, unlike John, I didn’t read Prof. Paul’s Letter to the Editor before my viva, although I had studied his seminal joint forces papers in great detail. He demonstrated torque by twisting the plastic ruler along its long axis whilst holding it at both ends. He then pushed the ruler with his finger at the top end whilst holding it at the bottom and he said “This is a bending moment, not a torque”. And with that simple and eloquent demonstration with a plastic ruler, I learned from Prof. Paul during my PhD viva the actual difference between the terms ‘torque’ and ‘moment’. All my anxiety and worry had now suddenly returned replying that I thought the bending moment was also called a torque. My ignorance was not helped by the fact that in Greek there is only one term to describe moment ('Ropi') irrespective of whether it is a bending or twisting moment due to a force pair. His response was “Well, then you read too many American papers and books young man”!. He had “some points” for discussion in almost every page and I realized that this was going to be a very long viva examination. It lasted nearly four hours, in fact, but at the end it was a very interesting and stimulating discussion and a very satisfying occasion, despite the long list of major and minor corrections that I was required to complete.

                  I met him on several occasions and conferences ever since and he was always the same kind, humble and modest person, like all true pioneers in science. I will always remember his warm smile and great enthusiasm for biomechanics.

                  A great person, a Scot and a pioneer scientist that will be missed, but he left us a reach and lasting legacy with his tremendous achievements and pioneering advances in biomechanics.

                  Rest in piece Prof. John Paul

                  V. Baltzopoulos, PhD
                  Chair in Biomechanics
                  School of Sport and Education
                  Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance
                  Brunel University
                  Heinz Wolff Building
                  Uxbridge, London, UB8 3PH, UK.

                  Tel: +44 1895 265355
                  Fax: +44 1895 269769
                  Last edited by Vasilios Baltzopoulos; November 23rd, 2013, 01:19 PM.