Emeritus Professor J.F.A. Sprent made outstanding contributions, over more than 60 years, to education, research and scholarship within the field of Parasitology. He was long-standing editor of the International Journal for Parasitology and his work included the field of pathology as well as detailed classical studies on taxonomy, life- cycles, zoogeography and evolution of parasites.
John had a signal impact on the discipline of Parasitology. After graduating in Veterinary Sciences and Zoology from the University of London, he commenced his doctoral studies in Africa, working on the life cycle of Bunostomum hookworms of cattle. He subsequently held research fellowships in the UK, USA and Canada.
John arrived in Australia with his wife Muriel and young family in 1952 to take up the position of Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Parasitology at the University of Queensland. John’s vision for parasitology was larger than this brief, however, and he was soon pressing to establish a primary focus for all aspects of the discipline, a vision that led to the establishment of the Department of Parasitology at the University in 1960, the only such Department to exist in Australia. While serving as Professor of Parasitology, Head of Department and Dean of Veterinary Sciences, he pressed on with his life work on ascaridoid nematodes, writing many keynote papers of their pathogenesis, diversity and evolution. His work on migration of Toxocara larvae in hosts led to a new understanding of parasite pathogenesis, and provided an experimental basis for understanding visceral larva migrans.
With national and international colleagues, John played a key role in establishing the Australian Society for Parasitology, of which he was elected Foundation President in 1964. As befitting a strong Society in those days, it was decided by members that they should sponsor a Journal. This resolve led to the establishment of the International Journal for Parasitology in 1971, under the editorship of Professor JD Smyth. John Sprent became Editor in 1974, a position he held for another 20 years, ably assisted throughout this period by his editorial assistant, Ms. Mary Cremin. John’s tenure as Editor was characterised by his continuing passion for parasites and parasitology, and his compassionate and collegial support of authors and reviewers.
After retirement from the Journal, John with his second wife Mary spent his days on his beloved property in Moggill in the western suburbs of Brisbane, tending his rainforest and cattle.
This piece on John Sprent first appeared in the ASP Newsletter Vol.22 No.1, Jan/Feb 2011.