A tribute to Dr. David Barker from Moore Institute Director Dr. Kent Thornburg

David J. P. Barker changed the face of medicine by forwarding the revolutionary idea that chronic disease derives more from nutrition in the early years of life than from pure genetic predisposition. One could fairly argue that no other concept in recent times has influenced our understanding of disease to the same extent. Through his dogged persistence he repeatedly showed his detractors wrong when they argued that the gene code dominates chronic disease risk. Furthermore once his message declaring that birthweight powerfully predicts a person's risk for chronic disease became established, he courageously refined that dogma by showing that other factors including maternal body composition and placental size and shape exceeded birthweight in their predictive power. No objective person could contest David's powerful influence on the world of medical thought nor could one contest his deserved accolades and awards. 

The world is suffering shock and disbelief in response to David Barker's premature death. 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. What many people did not see beyond the genius of the man was his delightful sense of humor, his concern for children, his love for wife and family and his desire to eradicate chronic disease from the world. For all who knew the man and appreciated his human peculiarities and especially for those who loved the man to the core, David J. P. Barker will be ever revered as one who made the world a much better place than he found it some 75 years ago.

Kent L. Thornburg, Ph.D.

August 2013