Obituary: John Reginald Larke

“Remarkable” academic and optometrist, John Reginald Larke, died at the age of 78

john larke

Optometry Today is sad to report the death of John Reginald Larke, who died at University Hospital Llandough in Wales on 22 June 2021, at the age of 78.

Dr Nizar K Hirji, optometrist consultant, paid tribute to the “remarkable” academic and optometrist.

On leaving school at the age of 15 in 1958, Larke attended a number of colleges and graduated with his first degree in 1966 from the department of ophthalmic optics at Aston University.

Following graduation, and in preparation for his doctorate, Larke spent several months working with Professor Otto Wichterle at the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in Prague. While there, he observed the work on the development of hydrogel lenses (Spofalens), the precursor to the modern hydrogel contact lens.

“He graduated with his doctorate in 1969 and never forgot that band of gifted thinkers,” Hirji said, adding that the “kinship” Larke experienced there “left a lifelong mark on him.”

Larke set up the Soft Lens Research Laboratory at Aston University where he supervised Master’s and doctorate postgraduates, Hirji said, instilling them with his “inquisitiveness and questioning mind that would provide the impetus for their own study and research journeys.”

“He touched the lives of many and felt a great kinship with many of his students, watching with interest their careers as they developed,” he continued.

The optometrist then moved to join the Laboratory of Experimental Optometry at the (then) University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology, now part of Cardiff University.

As an academic, Larke published many papers in peer-reviewed journals, and in 1985, published the text The Eye in Contact Lens Wear.

“In retirement too, he carried on his research interest, but this time into a very different subject,” Hirji said, explaining that Larke went on to publish his book The Way to Christianity, in 2014, “reflecting his diverse interest and intellect.”

“On 8 July 2021, at the Cardiff and Glamorgan Memorial Park and Crematorium, we bade farewell to a pioneering researcher, an optometrist, a father, a great mentor, and a dear friend,” Hirji concluded.

Larke leaves behind four children: Ben, Suzy, Toby, and Jake.