Chemistry professor Brian McCarry, of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. died unexpectedly of a heart attack on July 7 while vacationing in Iceland. McCarry, 67, was the Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair in Environment & Health at McMaster University and the institution’s former acting chair in the biology department. At the time of his death, McCarry was on a two-year research leave, and had just spoken at the International Metabolomics Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. He had travelled to Iceland with his partner Twyla Hendry for a short vacation when he collapsed in their hotel room.
A dedicated and inspiring teacher with an infectious love of science, McCarry taught freshman chemistry for nearly half of his 37-year career at McMaster. In the past three decades, 25 MSc and 14 PhD students have graduated from his research group. As former student Jim Kapron recalls: “My personal recollection of Brian is a wild-eyed, curly-haired synthetic chemist, who designed a fourth year organic course around an informal poll in the very first class. ‘What do you like to do?’ he asked us. One of us suggested allergies. The next day we were learning about prostaglandins, where they came from, how they worked, and how you could synthesize them.”
McCarry also led one of the first major research infrastructure grants to be awarded to McMaster by the Canada Foundation of Innovation and its provincial counterpart, the Ontario Innovation Trust. The grant, titled “Biomolecular Interactions Initiative,” brought more than $13 million in funding to the chemistry department.
McCarry had an international reputation in environmental chemistry and toxicology and was actively involved in environmental concerns in Hamilton. He chaired Clean Air Hamilton, a multi-stakeholder group working to improve air quality in Hamilton and was involved with overseeing the restoration of Hamilton Harbour. As a result of his many environment-related activities, he received the Canadian Environment Award from the Government of Canada and Canadian Geographic. He was also a recipient of the Dr. Victor Cecilioni Hamilton Environmentalist of the Year Award from the City of Hamilton. McCarry is survived by Hendry and their children, Adrian, Aislinn and Tom.