A man of vision whose contributions changed fundamental concepts of physics, genetics, and radiation biology, Robert Hall Haynes was bom in London, Ontario in 1931. After receiving his early education in the Ontario school system, he entered the Physics and Mathematics Program of the University of Western Ontario as a scholarship student in 1949. Following his graduation in 1953 and a year of graduate study in applied mathematics at McGill University, he returned to Western where he obtained his Ph.D. for the most extensive and detailed study of the viscous properties of human blood that had been performed up to that time. These studies laid the basis for much of the subsequent research in this field. As a graduate student working part time at the London clinic of the Ontario Cancer Foundation, he developed a simplified mathematical technique for calculating the dose of radiation required to treat tumors with the newly developed "cobalt bomb". Upon completion of his Ph.D., he was awarded a Research Fellowship of the British Empire Cancer Campaign which enabled him to carry out further mathematical work in radiation physics at St. Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College of the University of London.
In 1958 he took up his first teaching appointment at the University of Chicago where he recognised the importance of a serendipitous observation regarding the recovery of yeast cells exposed to potentially lethal doses of radiation. This finding, together with the results of subsequent experiments, led to the formulation of the "DNA damage-repair" hypothesis which soon replaced the classical "target theory" for the mathematical analysis of the dose-response of cells to radiation. After moving to the University of California at Berkeley, he extended this research into molecular mechanisms of DNA repair and the relation of these processes to mutagenesis, the induction of inherited changes in DNA. His studies in this area were germinal to the development of DNA repair as a new branch of biology. Since that time, the concept of DNA repair has had a far-reaching impact on molecular genetics, cancer research, and evolutionary theory. The importance of his area of academic endeavour was reflected in the recognition of the several molecules involved in DNA repair as the "Molecule of the Year" by the American Society for the Advancement of Science in 1994.
Robert Hall Haynes has continued his tradition of academic excellence at the main campus of York University, where he was appointed Chair of the Biology Department in 1968. Here, as at Berkeley, he contributed significantly to the development of innovative undergraduate biology curricula and provided a large number of students with opportunities for research training. Currently, Dr. Haynes is a Distinguished Research Professor, Emeritus at York University and is active in studying the feasibility of establishing a biosphere on the planet Mars.
Robert Hall Haynes has an extensive record of service to science, having provided leadership to a large number of professional societies, academic institutions and governmental agencies nationally and internationally. In 1988, while President of the Genetics Society of Canada, he served as President of the XVIth International Congress of Genetics, a meeting which attracted some 4000 scientists from 74 countries to Toronto. He was a founding member of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and was instrumental in establishing the institute’s program in Evolutionary Biology. As Chair of the Advisory Committee on Mutagenesis of the Department of National Health & Welfare, he was the principal author of guidelines for testing the biological safety of chemicals.
Robert Hall Haynes has received numerous awards, including a Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal and the Flavelle Medal of the Royal Society of Canada. In 1990, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. In recognition of his contributions to the development and promotion of science in under-industrialised countries of the world, he has the honour, rare for a Canadian, of being elected to Associate Fellowship in the Third World Academy of Sciences. As the recently elected President of the Royal Society of Canada/La Societe Royale du Canada, Robert Hall Haynes continues his tireless efforts to promote and recognize excellence in Canadian research.
Robert Hall Haynes is one of Canada's most accomplished scientists, having made fundamental contributions that changed the conceptual framework of several branches of scientific endeavour. The impact of these contributions will continue to have far reaching effects in the improvement of health care and the understanding of biological aspects of the human condition. Truly, Robert Hall Haynes is a scientist of whom all Canadians can be justifiably proud.