On Tuesday 22 June 2021, John Reginald Larke, a remarkable academic and optometrist, passed away peacefully at University Hospital Llandough, Penarth, Wales at the age of 78.
John left school at 15 in 1958 and went on to attend a number of colleges. He graduated with his first degree in 1966 from the Department of Ophthalmic Optics at Aston University.
After his graduation and, in preparation for his doctorate, John spent several months working with Professor Otto Wichterle at the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (CSAS) in Prague. It was there that he witnessed the pioneering work on the development of hydrogel lenses (Spofalens) – the precursor to the modern hydrogel contact lens.
John graduated with his doctorate in 1969 and never forgot that band of gifted thinkers. The kinship he was fortunate enough to experience, during his time in communist Czechoslovakia, left a lifelong mark on him.
He went on to set up the Soft Lens Research Laboratory at Aston University where he supervised many masters and doctorate postgraduates, infecting 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.
John left Aston to join the Laboratory of Experimental Optometry at the then University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology, now part of Cardiff University. During his academic years, he published many papers in peer-reviewed journals with a diverse group of scientists and clinicians, and in 1985 the text, “he Eye in Contact Lens Wear.
In retirement too John carried on his research interest, but this time into a very different subject, culminating in 2014 in the publication of his book, The Way to Christianity, 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. RIP.
John leaves four children – Ben, Suzy, Toby and Jake.