I learned yesterday of the death of Professor David Barker at the age of 75. Barker was the prime mover behind the last 2 decades of research into the developmental origins of health and disease and although he always expressed irritation at the developmental origins hypothesis being referred to as the Barker Hypothesis, all of us who work in the area should regard him as the father of our field.
I first came across David Barker when I was a young postdoc beginning my work on a new rat model to test what was then called the FOAD (Fetal Origins of Adult Disease) hypothesis. I was initially a skeptic but found myself entranced by his persuasive lectures and superb flair for selling the idea. David was a marvellous speaker and this led to the big influence that he had on the field and the dominance of his core group initially focused on Southampton and Auckland. The ideas that he expressed changed my view of nutrition and health and opened up new vistas of opportunity for my own research. Hundreds of others have followed on from this and so David Barker was essentially at the centre of a vast grouping of young epidemiologists, nutritionists and eventually molecular biologists, all focused on an area of science that was born in the notebooks of a midwife from Hertfordshire and a charismatic epidemiologist.
David and I weren’t always on the same wavelength and had our differences. When I left Southampton in 1998 we were not on good terms and we never spoke again. Despite this I am genuinely sad at his passing and feel a great debt of gratitude to him for the start he helped provide for my own career. My thoughts are with his family and friends.