In Memoriam: David Barker, M.D., Ph.D., FRS

David Barker photo for In Memoriam web page

1938 - 2013
Dr. Barker sparked a revolution in our understanding of the origins of chronic disease. His work led to the creation of a new filed of science that continues to influence researchers, clinicians and public health experts.

He first linked fetal nutrition to adult disease in the late 1980's. He started an investigation into why historically poorer areas of England had disproportionately higher death rates from heart disease than other areas. He showed that people born with low birth weights have a greater risk of developing coronary heart disease and diabetes, demonstrating a relationship between a mother's nutrition and the health of her children as adults. This groundbreaking finding, known as the Barker Hypothesis, led to a new understanding that chronic adult diseases are "programmed" in the womb by poor nutrition and other harmful influences. Today this field of science is called the  Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, or DOHaD.

Dr. Barker joined OHSU in 2003 to work with Kent Thornburg, Ph.D. Dr. Barker's vast expertise and invaluable connections to international studies helped establish OHSU as an international leader in the field of DOHaD. This expertise aided in the creation of the OHSU Moore Institute for Nutrition in Wellness in 2012 where he served as the director of international collaborations.

Dr. Barker received his doctorate from the University of Birmingham and his medical degree from the University of London. For his work on fetal programming, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. He is past president of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland. Dr. Barker lectured and wrote extensively on maternal-fetal nutrition, including the book Nutrition in the Womb. He received a number of international awards including the Prince Mahidol Prize in 2000, the Danone International Prize for Nutrition in 2005 and the Richard Doll Prize in Epidemiology in 2011.

"Inside his extraordinary mind, before its untimely silencing, was the brilliance, the insatiable drive for discovery and the greatest repository of knowledge on the biology of human disease the world has ever known," said Dr. Thornburg. 

More about Dr. Barker